Duke Basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses of Blue Devils' 3-Guard Lineup

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIFebruary 3, 2013

Duke Basketball: Strengths and Weaknesses of Blue Devils' 3-Guard Lineup

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    Duke basketball has become less about big men in recent years, and more about quick guards.

    This year's team has been no different, as the Blue Devils have been relying on a three-guard lineup for much of the season.

    Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton give the Blue Devils one of the best backcourts in the country, but is it really always worth playing three guards at once?

    Let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Mike Krzyzewski's three-guard rotation.

Strength: More Scorers on the Floor

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    When Duke plays three guards on the floor, it becomes difficult for opponents to figure out which scoring threat is going to take the shot.

    Since Curry, Sulaimon and Cook all score at least 11 points per game and combine for 39.6 points per game, defenses need to keep an eye on all three of them.

    By playing all three at once, the team has more scoring threats on the floor, since these three guys are three of the top four healthy scorers on the team right now.

Weakness: Hurts the Frontline

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    When the Blue Devils play three guards at once, they obviously have to take away a big man.

    Duke doesn't rely on its big men like it used to, but the team still needs three big bodies at times.

    As we saw against North Carolina State, the team is vulnerable inside, and playing three guards instead of three big men exposes that weakness.

Strength: The Team Can Run the Floor Better

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    Duke's guard are very fast, with Cook leading the way.

    He is an athletic point guard who can push the tempo, and when Duke goes small, the team can run the floor with anyone in the nation.

    By scoring easy baskets in transition, Duke is able to run up the score and go on long runs against opponents.

Weakness: The Team Is Easily Outrebounded

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    Losing the battle of the boards can be very costly in college hoops, and by only playing two big men, Duke makes it easy for opponents to outrebound them.

    The Blue Devils lost the rebounding battle against both North Carolina State and Miami, and that was a big reason why they lost those games.

    Duke already ranks 149th in the country in rebounds per game, and when the team only has two big men, that exacerbates that weakness.

Strength: Extends the Defense

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    To have three guards who combine to shoot over 40 percent from three is a special weapon, and Duke uses that to its advantage.

    Duke relies heavily on the three because part of the team's offense is extending the defense.

    Cook, Curry and Sulaimon all have great range, and because of that the defense has to play up, which opens up lanes to the rim.

Weakness: Mason Plumlee Is Asked to Do Too Much

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    Mason Plumlee is the best player Duke has, but when he only has one other big man on the floor, he is asked to do too much.

    Plumlee is an exceptional player, but to ask him to guard the paint almost single-handedly is just too much.

    Since Ryan Kelly went down with an injury, we've seen Plumlee do as much as he can, but  he can't do it all without another true big man inside.