Duke Basketball: Will Mason Plumlee Live Up to the Hype?

Trevor MedeirosCorrespondent INovember 19, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13:  Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts with Seth Curry #30 after drawing a foul on a basket against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2012 State Farm Champions Classic at Georgia Dome on November 13, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Those college basketball fans watching Mason Plumlee lately have discovered that he’s pretty darn good.

Against elite (albeit very experienced) Kentucky competition, Plumlee put up 18 points in a big Duke win. He followed that up with a career-high 28 points in Duke’s 88-67 romp over Florida Gulf Coast.

Now, with each solid performance he has in 2012-13, the hype surrounding Plumlee will only grow.

It could eventually reach a fever pitch, with talk from the pundits of Plumlee possibly ending the season as the ACC Player of the Year. Then, the question becomes whether or not Mike Krzyzewski’s best player will live up to the growing hype.

At the moment, there’s no reason to think Plumlee won’t.

One thing that works to Plumlee’s advantage is his vast college experience. A senior, Plumlee has gone through plenty of battles during his first three years as a Dukie.

Let’s not forget that Plumlee was a key bench player as a freshman for the national championship Duke team of 2010-11. Since then, Plumlee’s skills have only progressed while in Durham.

He’s always had the size, strength and athleticism. Add experience to the mix for Plumlee, and it’s an equation that will help him live up to the hype this season.

One potential roadblock in Plumlee’s path to ACC POY will come from Duke’s opponents placing great emphasis on not letting the senior beat them. It will be up to Plumlee’s teammates to step up in order to prevent defenses from latching constant double teams on No. 5. Chances are, they will.

If Seth Curry can somehow play through his leg injury this season, he’s as good an offensive guard as there is out there. If you can say anything about fellow senior forward Ryan Kelly, it’s that he’s underrated.

And it’s only a matter of time before promising Duke freshmen like Alex Murphy, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson start seriously contributing this season. These Blue Devils should keep opposing defenses honest, allowing Plumlee to do serious damage in one-on-one situations.

Plus, the legendary Coach K and his staff should be able to get Plumlee in some favorable situations through game planning as the season wears on.

Finally, Plumlee will have plenty of motivation to live up to the hype placed upon his muscular shoulders. That motivation mostly comes from the money he’ll make as a likely NBA draft lottery pick next spring should he have a dominant senior year.

Plumlee was on the cusp of being a lottery pick following his junior season. He came back to school in hopes of furthering his draft stock.

If Plumlee puts up big numbers this year, he’ll be a virtual lock to be a high draft selection.

I’m certainly not saying Plumlee returned to Duke for money.

But earning a guaranteed NBA contract is great motivation for any aspiring pro basketball player. That motivation should help Plumlee dominate on both ends of the floor for Duke.

Plumlee has the experience, skills and motivation needed to have a big senior season. Throw in supportive teammates and a coaching staff that will put him in position to flourish, and it will be very surprising if he doesn’t live up to the growing hype.