Duke Basketball: How Similar Is This Team to the 2010 NCAA Championship Winner?
Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils are off to another great start this season, which has Duke fans thinking that this year's team will be able to finish the season in the same way as the 2010 team did—by cutting down the nets and winning a national championship.
However, if Duke finishes the year as college basketball's best, it will do so in a completely different way than the Blue Devils of 2010.
Although this current group has some great perimeter shooters, they are built around Mason Plumlee. Averaging over 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, Plumlee has been Duke's most consistent player. He has been dominant in Duke's biggest games, leading many to believe he is now the favorite to be the National Player of the Year.
In 2010, Coach K gave his post players a different role.
Brian Zoubek became one of the best rebounders in the country, but he was rarely used as a primary scoring option. Instead, Zoubek was incredibly effective at rebounding missed shots and passing the ball out to open shooters on the perimeter.
Unlike Zoubek, when Mason Plumlee grabs an offensive rebound, he's looking to score.
In 2010, Jon Scheyer took the responsibility of leading the Blue Devils at the point guard position and had one of the finest senior seasons in Duke's history.
Scheyer finished that season as a First Team All-American and led the ACC in assist to turnover ratio. His ability to control the pace of a game and direct the offense was one of the keys in leading the Blue Devils to the NCAA title.
Which Duke team is better?
As successful as he was, Scheyer's game was nothing like what we have seen from Quinn Cook.
Cook is able to push the tempo for the Blue Devils and he's had great success leading the fast break. Because of his speed and athleticism, Cook is able to create off the dribble and beat defenders to force mismatches. Quinn's ability to speed up the game also allows Duke to run more of its motion offense, different than the half-court sets they employed during the 2010 season.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two teams, and what could ultimately be this team's Achilles' heel, is the issue of depth.
By the 2010 NCAA Tournament, Mike Krzyzewski had developed a solid rotation of eight different players. He was able to manage fouls and keep his post players fresh by rotating Mason and Miles Plumlee with Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. He also incorporated Andre Dawkins into the rotation as an additional perimeter-shooting threat.
It remains to be seen if Coach K will be able to use the same sort of depth with this team.
Tyler Thornton has earned a role as a defensive stopper and occasional threat to hit the outside shot. If Josh Hairston can stay out of foul trouble, he could provide valuable minutes and physical play in the post. However, we still don't know if Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy or Marshall Plumlee will be able to contribute this season.
If at least two of those players can develop and, in so doing, enable Coach K to use a rotation of eight different players, the Blue Devils will be very dangerous. Keeping Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry fresh at the end of games could be the difference in giving Duke the edge to capture another title.
But even if the two teams don't have the same formula for success, this year's group has the potential to finish the season as the nation's best.
Because if anyone knows how to change the formula while still producing the same results, it's Mike Krzyzewski.
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