Duke Basketball: Quinn Cook's Turnaround Has Made Blue Devils Title Contenders

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIDecember 24, 2012

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 20: Quinn Cook #2 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts following a play against the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 20, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Coming into the 2012-13 college basketball season, the Duke Blue Devils were ranked as the No. 8 team in the country, with many feeling that they weren't even close to matching the talent of teams like Indiana or Kentucky.

Eleven games later, the Blue Devils find themselves on top of the college basketball world, winning all 11 of their contests, including three against opponents like Ohio State, Kentucky and Louisville.

The success of senior big man Mason Plumlee has been crucial, as has the consistent scoring touch of Seth Curry.

Those two, however, were expected to play like all-conference stars.

It has been the emergence of sophomore point guard Quinn Cook that has really put the Blue Devils over the top.

After being ranked No. 38 in the country by ESPN in the 2011 recruiting class, the native of Hyattsville, Maryland had a rough freshman season.

Cook saw an average of 11.7 minutes per game (no wonder, seeing as he was stuck behind Austin Rivers) and shot just 40.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point land.

This season, his numbers have been slightly better in terms of production per minute played, yet Duke looks like a well-oiled machine with Cook at the point, as opposed to the shoot-first Rivers.

Cook has also been great at the defensive end of the floor, playing stifling man-to-man defense and forcing nearly two steals per game.

With his three-point percentage up, his field-goal percentage up, his free-throw percentage up and his assists per game among the best in the nation (he sits tied for 25th with Patrick Miller of Tennessee State), Cook has really helped Duke spread the floor and become a less predictable offensive team.

Keep in mind that he's had this turn-around kind of year against opponents like Kentucky, Minnesota, Louisville and Ohio State. It's not like he's padded his stat line by beating up on soft opponents (his assists per game against those four opponents comes in at 5.25, just .75 below his 6.0 average for the year).

Along with the surprisingly strong play of freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, Cook has really helped this team surge to the top of the college hoops world.

Now with a more versatile team taking the floor every night, Duke is a legitimate threat to win the national championship in 2013.