Duke fans have reason to be excited about this year’s version of Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils.
After a big win at the Georgia Dome over the third-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, the sky’s the limit for Duke in 2012-13. With that said, though, fans should temper their expectations.
The Blue Devils have only played two games thus far this season and if college basketball analysts know anything, it’s how you finish a season that matters the most.
(Just ask Coach K about that regarding how the end of last year went down.)
Through this minute fraction of the regular season, the Cameron Crazies know what they’re getting out of veterans like Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly. However, there are a few other Blue Devils fans should want—and need—to see more out of as the season unfolds further.
It’s the development of these particular players that is either going to make or break this season in Durham.
Entering his freshman season, the general consensus from experts was that Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon was going to have a great career with the Blue Devils.
If the Kentucky game is any indication, those experts may be right on the money regarding Sulaimon. The freshman, by way of Houston, had ice in his veins against third-ranked Kentucky this past week at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Sulaimon may have only had 10 points in Duke’s win over the Wildcats, however, the majority of those points came by way of three critical three-pointers that allowed the Blue Devils to keep pace in the first half and eventually pull away in the second half. Not bad for a freshman playing just the second meaningful college basketball game of his career.
Sulaimon stayed outside of the three-point arc for the majority of the Kentucky game. It will be interesting to see what he does when he attacks the basket with regularity and develops a rapport with Duke point guard Quinn Cook.
That’s when fans could see Sulaimon really develop into the next great Dukie.
If Duke is going to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament this season, they need point guard Quinn Cook to take that next critical step in his young career.
Through the Blue Devils’ first two games this season, Cook has played well in spots. Cook had eight points and two assists against Georgia State.
He followed that performance with a seven point, three assist output against Kentucky. Battling Kentucky’s elite athletes, Cook showed signs that he’s ready to break out.
He kept the defense honest by hitting a few outside shots (including a three-pointer), played solid defense and had a nice offensive fast break connection with freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Now all Cook needs to do is execute on these aforementioned positive plays more frequently, and the point guard duties will be his permanently.
If not, Coach K won’t hesitate to hand the reigns over to senior Seth Curry or maybe even Sulaimon.
Paging Alex Murphy. Where’s Alex Murphy?
A redshirt freshman forward, Murphy has barely taken the court for the Duke Blue Devils so far this season. Murphy didn’t play at all in Duke’s season opening win against Georgia State.
And he played a mere two minutes against Kentucky in the following game. What was Murphy’s biggest highlight in those two minutes?
That came when he and Mason Plumlee were both posterized on an emphatic dunk by Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress. The scouting report on Murphy coming out of high school in Rhode Island was that he had the potential to be either the next Kyle Singler or Mike Dunleavy, Jr, given how all three players share a similar set of skills and physical attributes.
Hopefully, Murphy can start earning some legitimate playing time as the season trudges on.
Because he has no chance of being the next coming of Singler or Dunleavy, Jr. by riding the pine.
Like Alex Murphy, fellow Duke freshman forward Amile Jefferson is another Blue Devil who has yet to make an impact so far this season.
Jefferson played a whole four minutes against Kentucky in Atlanta. He had no points, one rebound and one assist. Part of the problem was that Jefferson was very passive, staying outside of the paint on the offensive end of the floor.
If Jefferson is going to contribute to Duke this season, he’s going to need to bang his athletic 6’8” frame down low and try to get some offensive rebounds. So far, veteran forwards Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee have been holding their own on the glass.
But at some point this year, that duo is going to need some help in that department. Hopefully, Jefferson can provide some welcomed depth inside.