Duke Basketball: 5 Reasons the Blue Devils Should Be Feared in 2012-13
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Duke basketball took a small step back in 2012. While the program did sign Austin Rivers, the Blue Devils never got the young guard to buy into their system, which led to a stagnant offense that hardly looked like Duke basketball.
Despite the change in playing style, Duke still managed to be in the picture for the ACC regular season championship and were a Ryan Kelly foot injury away from seriously contending in the tournament.
The offseason has been a mixed bag with the bad (Austin Rivers leaving, Andre Dawkins' personal problems, missing out on top recruits) outweighing the good (Mason Plumlee returning).
But 2012 is behind the Blue Devils now, and 2013 promises to be a much sunnier year in Durham. Here are five reasons not to sleep on Duke in 2012-13.
5: A Return to the Duke Style of Play
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Duke basketball has always been a team game. While each championship team has had a player or two who outshines the rest, at the heart of everything is a drive-and-kick offense that punishes teams for collapsing on the point guard.
2012 saw Austin Rivers take much of the minutes at point guard, which led to stagnant offense as Rivers attempted to isolate more than distribute. Rivers still managed to lead the team in scoring, but it came at the cost of offensive balance.
With Rivers now gone to the NBA, Duke will be able to get back to playing that balanced style of play. Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton are much purer point guards and will look to feed Duke's wing players for open jump shots.
Cook is a traditional Duke point guard in the mold of Nolan Smith. He is a gifted offensive player who will strike a balance between driving to the rim and distributing to Duke's perimeter shooters.
Thornton is much more of a Greg Paulus type. He is a lock-down defender who is capable of involving his teammates and hitting the open shots he gets.
4: Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee
Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee sat out last season as redshirt freshmen, but were still able to practice with the team and gain that experience. Two of the top recruits from 2011, these two young players will finally get to display their skills next season.
Murphy is a multi-talented forward in the mold of Kyle Singler. At 6'7" he can play both forward positions and is capable of facing up or posting on the block with efficiency. Based on how Mike Krzyzewski chooses to use the young man, he could be a major factor in how the Blue Devils do in 2013.
Plumlee, like his brothers, is about as close to a pure center at you can get. The 6'11" youngest of the three Plumlees projects to be more of the offensive talent Mason is and less the rebounder and defensive presence that Miles was.
Coach K will likely shy away from starting Marshall and Mason together right away, but the two will likely find themselves on the court at the same time.
With just one incoming freshman in Rasheed Sulaimon, getting these two players for four more years should make Duke fans feel better about the future.
3: Experience and Senior Leadership
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2013 brings with it a senior class who has felt the highs and lows of playing college basketball. Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee were all members of the 2010 National Championship team and will want to end their college careers on a high note.
All three players will be determined to bring Duke back to the promised land and will be relied upon heavily to do so. Plumlee said no to the NBA for a last shot at a national title and will likely be one of the main offensive options.
Kelly and Curry played lesser roles than Plumlee on the 2010 team—Kelly as a role player, Curry as a redshirt transfer—but the knowledge of the day-to-day process and attitude of a champion are still with them.
If these three—and Andre Dawkins if he stays with the team—can impart their wisdom on their younger teammates and Coach K does what he does best, Duke will be a force in 2013.
2: Mason Plumlee
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Already one of the best post players in the ACC, Mason Plumlee decided to return for his senior season instead of going to the NBA. An All-ACC third team selection in 2012, Plumlee will be relied upon more on the offensive end while also taking on the defensive responsibilities that brother Miles left behind.
Next year's team is composed of more perimeter players than interior players, which means that Plumlee will usually be the only big man on the court at any given time. This means that he will need to improve his work on the offensive boards while also being able to pass out of the double teams that will inevitably come his way.
No individual player's success will have a bigger impact on this team than Plumlee's will, due to the lack of depth in the post. If he is up to the task, Plumlee could make Duke extremely tough to handle both inside and out in 2013.
1: Mike Krzyzewski
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Coach Mike Krzyzewski is considered by many to the best basketball coach in the world. His four national championships are the most among active coaches, and his 927 wins are the most of any coach in Division I Men's College Basketball.
Coach K has always done a great job of getting the most out of his players by plugging them into his system and giving them opportunities to succeed. Last season could be considered one of his best coaching jobs because Duke was still in the conversation late in the year despite inconsistent play and a lack of buy-in from Austin Rivers.
2013 promises to be a much more vintage Duke team which—if history is any indication—means that Coach K will have them in contention for a national championship from November through March.
Having one of the best coaches in the sport means that the Blue Devils will always be relevant, and that makes him the No. 1 reason why Duke should be feared in 2013.