Duke Basketball: 5 Burning Questions After ACC-Opening Rout of Wake Forest

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2013

Duke Basketball: 5 Burning Questions After ACC-Opening Rout of Wake Forest

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    The Duke Blue Devils started their assault on the ACC by whipping Wake Forest 80-62.

    After the first few minutes of the game, Mike Krzyzewski's squad was in complete control of the contest.

    Though this was only the first of 18 conference match-ups, we can still consider some of the key issues that the Blue Devils will have to deal with if they are going to win the 2012-13 ACC title and make a deep run in this year's NCAA tournament.

    Here are 5 Burning Questions for Coach K and Duke to answer following today's rout of Wake Forest:

5. Will the Blue Devils’ Starters Wear Out from Too Many Minutes?

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    With the game in hand, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski removed his starters in the middle of the second half, only to have to reinsert them to close out the game.

    Duke’s starting five each play at least 30 minutes per game, with Mason Plumlee logging the most time (33 mpg).

    Playing your starters three-fourths of the game is not extreme. As the season wears on however, you would like to be able to keep your best players fresh.

    If the Blue Devils close out games early, then Coach K can substitute more freely and conserve Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon’s playing time for games down the road.

    In a season that could stretch to 40 games, effectively managing everyone's minutes may be a key to preventing another Lehigh-like disaster.

4. Can Ryan Kelly Stay on Fire from Beyond the Arc?

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    Ryan Kelly hit three-of-four shots from downtown in the first ten minutes of today’s game, scoring 13 of the Blue Devils first 19 points.

    The 6’11” PF ended up leading Duke in scoring with 22, hitting five-of-seven shots from beyond the arc.  

    Kelly has been on fire as of late.

    Going into today’s contest against the Demon Deacons, Kelly knocked down seven of his last ten three-pointers over the previous three games.

    Obviously, if the stretch-4 from nearby Raleigh can stay hot from the outside, it will bring tons of benefits to the Blue Devils.

    A big benefit is that Kelly is more active on the offensive glass when he’s dropping shots from distance. Beyond his scoring today, he also grabbed 3 offensive rebounds.

3. How Badly Will Duke’s Lack of Offensive Rebounding Hurt Them?

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    In today's romp, Duke didn't have too work hard to do much of anything against the Demon Deacons.

    So the fact that the Blue Devils only grabbed nine offensive rebounds was not a troubling problem in the outcome of today's game.

    However, one of the glaring deficiencies on this year's Duke team is their failure to hit the offensive glass.

    Going into today's game, the Blue Devils had grabbed 123 offensive boards in their first 13 match-ups.

    That's an average of 9.5 orpg, which ranks them as No. 278 in the nation, tied with Northern Arizona and Weber State...Not exactly a distinction of excellence, if you ask me.

    In conference, only Virginia (9.2) and Wake Forest (9.0) grab less offensive rebounds than the Blue Devils.

    If Duke stays on this path, this shortcoming could cost them an ACC ball game or two. If they don't ramp it up, offensive rebounding could lead to an early March Madness departure.

2. How Important Is Quinn Cook's Scoring to Duke's Success?

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    ESPN's Stats and Information made this comment about Quinn Cook's outing today against Wake Forest:

    A VERY rare stat line in today's Duke win vs Wake Forest. He had a career-high 14 assists, but scored 0 points on 0-12 shooting. Only 1 major-conference player had more assists in a scoreless game in the last 15 seasons.

    Cook's floor leadership and play-making have made a huge impact on Duke's success in the first half of the 2012-13 season.

    Going into today's game, the sophomore PG was averaging 11.1 ppg and 5.6 apg.

    Just as important to his assists-per-game total is his assists-to-turnovers ratio: 2.33.

    Anything above 2.0 is super.

    A question to consider is: With Plumlee, Curry, Kelly and Sulaimon on the court, how vital is Cook's scoring as long as he is running the show and delivering the rock?

    My answer is that while his pass-first PG mentality is vital to this team, Cook needs to remain a viable scoring option.

    If he doesn't, Duke's opponents will sag off of him and cause problems for one of the other Blue Devils' scoring opportunities.

1. How Will the Blue Devils’ Respond When They Play a True Road Game?

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    Duke is undefeated (14-0) and ranked No. 1 as they start their ACC slate.

    Eight of their opening games have been played in the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

    The other six games have been played on neutral courts (at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, three games in the Bahamas, the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., and the Time-Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte).

    As good as Duke has been over the last few decades, they are vulnerable on the road.

    Since the 2002-03 season, Coach K’s crew has an overall home-record of 247-28 for a 89.8 winning percentage.

    In that same time, the Blue Devils have gone 67-36 on the road. That’s a mere 65 winning percentage, which means that Duke loses (on average) one out of every three games on an opponents’ court.

    So, if they simply stay true to trend, they could lose three conference games on the road this season.

    The most likely places for the Blue Devils to trip up would be against North Carolina and NC State.

    However, they have been knocked off at Florida State, Maryland, and Virginia Tech in recent years.

    Prediction: Duke loses two games on the road this year: Next Saturday at North Carolina State (Jan. 12) and at Maryland on Feb. 16.