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Duke Basketball: Players Who Will Help Blue Devils Maintain Unbeaten Record

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 19:  Seth Curry #30 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a basket against the Cornell Big Red during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 19, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

A weakened ACC means the Duke Blue Devils have a very good chance to finish the season unbeaten.

With a 28-point win over the Clemson Tigers Tuesday night, Duke improved to 15-0 on the year. The Blue Devils have already picked up wins over Kentucky, Ohio State and Louisville.

Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry have been the biggest reasons for Duke's fantastic season up to this point. The two are combining for a little over 33 points a game.

Plumlee and Curry will rightfully receive the majority of the plaudits for the team's performance. However, in order to have an elite team, the roster needs to be loaded from top to bottom.

Here's four other players who will play a key role toward Duke trying to remain perfect during the regular season.

 

Rasheed Sulaimon, SG

Rasheed Sulaimon was a highly decorated high-schooler. ESPN ranked the McDonald's All-American 12th in the nation in the 2012 recruiting class.

Sulaimon hasn't wasted any time in his college career.

He's averaging 11.2 points, 2.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Sulaimon has the talent to score at least 20 a game if he really wanted to. Instead, he's happy to sit provide the majority of his production on the defensive end. Few in the ACC are better than Sulaimon defending on the perimeter.

 

Quinn Cook, PG

Every great team needs a floor general. For the Blue Devils, that player is Quinn Cook. He's averaging 6.1 assists a game while adding 11.4 points.

It's Cook who acts as the coach on the floor.

He's also been a very good defender, averaging 1.9 steals a game.

The problem with Cook is that he's gone very cold some games, none more so than when he went 0-for-11 against Wake Forest on January 5. He recovered very well, shooting 12-of-16 in the win over Clemson.

Consistency will be the key for Cook.

 

Ryan Kelly, PF

A story to continue following is the health of Ryan Kelly. The one bad thing to come out of Duke's huge win over Clemson was the fact that Kelly apparently hurt his right foot.

Laura Keeley of the Charlotte Observer reported that at some point in the game, Kelly tweaked it, which is the same foot he sprained on the holiday break.

Losing Kelly for a sustained period of time would be a huge loss for the Blue Devils. Although Plumlee is the star down low, Kelly provides much-needed help in the post. If Kelly isn't on the floor, defenses will be able to collapse around Plumlee more and more, blunting his ability to impact a game.

 

Tyler Thornton, PG

With Cook as the starter, Tyler Thornton could very easily be upset by having a reserve role on Duke. On the contrary, he's more than happy to come of the bench to spell Cook.

Thortnton's numbers aren't all that imposing, but he does rank second on the team in assists.

Keeley  can't stop raving in the Observer about what Thornton does when the games are over.

Thornton assumes the role of Curry in practices since Curry's right shin has been giving him problems. There's also the way that Thornton has taken Cook under his wing.

Stars play a key role, but it's players like Thornton that can mean the difference between being a very good team and a great team.

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