Duke vs. N.C. State: Suddenly Blue Devils Have More Questions Than Answers

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2013

Duke vs. N.C. State: Suddenly Blue Devils Have More Questions Than Answers

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    Seth Curry was doing everything he could Saturday to help carry Duke in its ACC battle against North Carolina State.

    Late in the second half, after scoring 22 points, the senior shooting guard went down with a left leg injury that prevented him from finishing the game and snuffed out the Blue Devils' chances of coming back.

    The Wolfpack knocked off No. 1 Duke (84-76) in a game that pushed N.C. State into the early ACC lead.

    Unpredictably, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski finds himself and his team staring at more questions than answers.

    Here's a quick look at what issues the Blue Devils will need to resolve if they are going to stay on track with what was a perfect season.

5. Can Marshall Plumlee Log More Quality Minutes?

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    This would be the perfect time for Marshall Plumlee to start contributing.

    He doesn't have to score a truckload of points, but the Blue Devils need some size off the bench to clog the middle and get some rebounds.

    MP3 seems to have the physical ability to play defense and crash the boards down low.

    But, so far, in five games, the 6'11" redshirt freshman has only logged 15 minutes of playing time and grabbed two rebounds.

    Maybe the upcoming games against Georgia Tech (Jan.17), at Miami (Jan. 23) and Maryland (Jan. 26) will give Coach K the opportunity to give Marshall more "PT."

    Time to get serious, young Mr. Plumlee.

4. Will Kelly's Defense Be Missed as Much as His Offense?

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    Ryan Kelly was having a super senior season.

    He was scoring 13.8 ppg, grabbing 5.4 rpg and shooting a sizzling 52.1 percent from beyond the arc before he suffered a right foot injury in this past week's game against Clemson.

    There is no official timetable for the 6'11" power forward's return.

    Though Kelly is known for his offensive excellence, ESPN's Stats and Information indicated that the offensive end isn't the only place that the Blue Devils could miss him:

    With Ryan Kelly out indefinitely, Duke's defense could struggle. Opponents are shooting just 22 percent against the senior. And Kelly ranks third in the country in fewest points allowed per play (minimum 100 plays defended).

    1. Phil Pressey (Missouri): 0.47 points allowed

    2. Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State): 0.52 points allowed

    3. Ryan Kelly (Duke): 0.53 points allowed

    4. Archie Goodwin (Kentucky): 0.54 points allowed

    Duke was lacking in the lane on Saturday as N.C. State took advantage of Kelly's absence.

    Will the Wolfpack be the last Blue Devil opponent to take advantage of Duke's unproven front-court replacements?

3. Can Amile Jefferson "Dial It Down" in Order to Stay on the Court?

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    The good news: Freshmen forward Amile Jefferson showed his exciting potential Saturday, coming off the bench to score 10 points, grab four rebounds and block two shots in 12 minutes of action.

    The bad news: Jefferson also committed five fouls in those dozen minutes, removing himself from having any chance to help Duke in its attempt to come back against N.C. State.

    Jefferson is athletic and has a great motor, but he will need to curb his frenzied approach to the game so that he can contribute in Kelly's absence and beyond.

2. Can Quinn Cook Become a Consistent Scoring Option and Maintain His PG Role?

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    One of the vital aspects of this year's Duke team has been the floor leadership of Quinn Cook.

    He has run the team well, averaging more than six assists and only 2.2 turnovers per game.

    Cook has also shown more recently that he is a capable scorer, accounting for 74 points in the last five games, including a career-high 27 against Clemson.

    Against N.C. State, the 6'1" sophomore dropped in 17 points while handing out seven assists.

    With Kelly out and Curry's status uncertain, can Cook run the show and also be a primary scoring threat?

    Duke's short-term success depends on it.

1. How Long Will Curry's Injury Sideline the SG?

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    At the conclusion of Saturday's game, no update came relating to the seriousness of Seth Curry's injury.

    He returned to the Blue Devils's bench but didn't re-enter the Duke lineup.

    That could mean anything from the team's medical staff being extra cautious to something that is more serious than anticipated.

    The 6'2" senior shooting guard is already playing with a leg injury that has prevented him from practicing much of the time.

    If Curry can't return immediately, his scoring (16 ppg) and leadership will be greatly missed and will cause Coach K to entirely rework the Blue Devils' rotation.


    Stats for this article were provided by ESPN's Duke team site.