Duke Basketball: Breaking Down the Good and Bad from Blue Devils' Superb Start
The Duke Blue Devils are 9-0, have beat the likes of Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville and Ohio State and are now No. 1 in the country thanks to none other than Alex Barlow of Butler.
If you predicted that back in October, go ahead and raise your hand. Now, for all you liars, go ahead and put your hand down.
Duke's start to the 2012-13 season has been truly magical, and there's no one right now that can honestly call the Blue Devils anything but the best team in the country.
Still, though, as Pam would say in the much less funny version of The Office without Michael Scott, "Pobody's Nerfect."
Despite the extraordinary start, Mike Krzyzewski's squad has still shown some slight flaws.
And because I'm not just a Negative Nancy, I'll start with the good before we get to the bad.
The Good: Lots of Stuff
That's the only real way to describe it. Duke has done lots of things right, and as a result, it's winning lots of big games—the win over Kentucky doesn't look quite as impressive right now, but the Minnesota and VCU ones look better every day.
It's a simple game like that.
The success starts with an unstoppable offensive attack.
Who is Duke's most important player?
Fueled by a versatile arsenal, the Devils are 19th in the country in effective field-goal percentage (54.8), 11th in true shooting percentage (59.9) and 10th in points per possession (1.131). Ken Pomeroy ranks them second in the country in offensive efficiency behind just Indiana.
There are plenty of reasons for this ideal efficiency.
For one, Seth Curry is shooting the ball much better. After knocking down right around 42 percent from the field over his first three collegiate seasons (including a year with Liberty), Curry has upped that number to 46.3 percent. He's improved his three-point shooting, sure, but a major reason for that increase is a ridiculous 59 percent mark from mid-range (via Hoop-Math).
In addition to Curry, Quinn Cook has been a pleasant surprise at point guard, freshman Rasheed Sulaimon has been even better than advertised and Ryan Kelly presents matchup problems as a big man who can knock down a jumper.
With Duke's ability to swing the ball like a well-oiled machine, it just takes one blow-by or defensive lapse, and the Devils will get an open shot from any of those four weapons.
Of course, none of that would be possible without Mason Plumlee's improvements on the inside. With 19.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, the senior is putting together a solid résumé for National Player of the Year.
Quietly, though, he hasn't done anything all that differently than last year. He's only shooting four percentage points better (61.1 percent, up from 57.2) and only averaging a couple more shots per game.
Plumlee, however, is getting to the stripe three more times per game, and slightly more importantly, he's actually making them—his 73.1 FT percentage is light years ahead of last season's 52.8 mark.
Throw it all together, and you've got one of the most balanced, versatile offenses in the nation. That's going to win you a lot of games.
The Bad: Depth and Rebounding
Despite all the things that have gone right, there are still some red flags on this team.
Most notably, the depth.
Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson were supposed to make immediate impacts, but they haven't been able to carve out a role while Josh Hairston isn't exactly the most reliable player, either.
That leaves Coach K with a rotation of just six players. It's been fine so far, and Marshall Plumlee's return from an injury will be a welcomed addition, but it gives the Devils a very small margin for error.
Moreover, the Blue Devils' rebounding stands to serve as a major problem down the road.
Plumlee's combination of size and athleticism makes him terrific on the glass, but Duke has no real talented rebounders after him. Kelly (5.2 RPG) is a horrible rebounder for his size (6'11"), mostly because of his style of play.
Sulaimon's energy and competitiveness makes him an impressive rebounder for a wing (4.0 RPG), but that won't help solve Duke's rebound percentage of 47.1, which ranks the Devils an abysmal 300th in the nation.
It hasn't hurt Mike Krzyzewski and company so far, but it's something that needs to be improved before a deep March run can happen.
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