Duke Basketball: Pass/Fail for Each Player Based on 2013 Expectations

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2013

Duke Basketball: Pass/Fail for Each Player Based on 2013 Expectations

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    With a 22-3 record and a top-10 ranking, this has been another strong season for the Duke basketball program.

    The expectations for the players at Duke are high every season, but Mike Krzyzewski often finds a way to draw the best of out his team.

    And although it will be a difficult road, this team is still very capable of winning a national championship.

    Let's look at how each player has lived up to the expectations of the 2012-13 season.

    All stats via ESPN.com.

Quinn Cook: Pass

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    Before the season began, there was speculation that Duke would struggle because of its lack of a great point guard.

    Quinn Cook has made those prognostications look rather foolish and played like one of the best point guards in the country.

    The sophomore point guard is averaging nearly six assists per game and he's increased his scoring since the injury to Ryan Kelly. Cook is averaging 12.3 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from behind the three-point line.

    When Cook plays well, he gives the Blue Devils an added dimension on offense and makes them very difficult to stop. He could be the key in helping lead Duke on a run to the Final Four.

Rasheed Sulaimon: Pass

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    When Austin Rivers left Duke and declared for the 2012 NBA draft, people thought there would be a drop-off between Rivers and Rasheed Sulaimon.

    Instead, the freshman from Houston, Texas, has been a great fit for the Blue Devils and plays a better all-around game than Rivers did during his lone season at Duke.

    Sulaimon is a streaky outside shooter but has shown a tremendous mid-range game, and he continues to gain more confidence in his ability to get to the basket. He has also been one of Duke's best defenders.

    Many didn't know what to expect from this freshman, but it appears the sky is the limit for Rasheed Sulaimon.

Seth Curry: Pass

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    Seth Curry is one of the toughest performers in the history of Duke basketball.

    Despite being hampered by a leg injury that prevents him from practicing, Curry has still managed to average 16.9 points per game while shooting nearly 42 percent from behind the three-point line.

    Curry is playing like a first-team all-conference player and is the guy the Blue Devils turn to when they need a clutch basket.

    Curry has delivered repeatedly throughout the season and will surely have to make some big baskets down the stretch if Duke is to have any postseason success.

Josh Hairston: Pass

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    If you were to only look at his statistics, Josh Hairston wouldn't seem like a guy who has contributed much to this team.

    However, Hairston is the type of player that offers much more than what shows up in the box score.

    He is one of the more vocal players on a team full of quiet players, and he always provides great activity on both ends of the court.

    While the junior forward might not appear to be important to Duke's success, he is always the first guy to give his body up for a loose ball, set a screen or take a charge.

    Hairston is a great glue guy who does the little things to help his team win.

Mason Plumlee: Pass

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    Mason Plumlee has had his struggles over the past two games, but that doesn't change the fact that he has been one of the most dominant players in the country this season.

    The senior forward from Warsaw, Ind., is averaging career highs in minutes, points and rebounds per game and he is a candidate to win the National Player of the Year award.

    Plumlee has also improved his free-throw shooting, which had been his Achilles' heel during his previous three seasons at Duke.

    Yet, as evidenced by the game against Maryland, the Blue Devils will only go as far as Mason Plumlee can carry them.

    In order for this season to be a great success for Plumlee, he will have to be at his best in the NCAA tournament.

Amile Jefferson: Pass

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    Prior to the injury to Ryan Kelly, it didn't look like Amile Jefferson would see much action during his freshman year.

    But when Kelly hurt his foot on January 8 against Clemson, it gave Jefferson an opportunity for more playing time, and he has made the most of it.

    The lean, athletic forward from Philadelphia, Pa. has shown impressive slashing ability, and his length makes him a very effective rebounder.

    Hopefully, Jefferson has gained confidence during the action he's seen in the past few games, and he will serve as a valuable piece for the Blue Devils in the NCAA tournament.

Tyler Thornton: Pass

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    Similar to Josh Hairston, Tyler Thornton is the type of player who does things for Duke that don't always show up in the box score.

    Yet, Thornton is often the player who will chase shooters around screens, deflect passes and help Duke extend its defensive pressure on the perimeter.

    The junior point guard has served as a great backup behind Quinn Cook and has come up with some clutch plays this season, including contributing nine points in Duke's comeback win over North Carolina.

    The Blue Devils will certainly need Thornton's toughness and defensive intensity once they reach the big dance.

Alex Murphy: Fail

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    You could argue that Alex Murphy meets expectations when he actually gets to see the court, but those moments have been few and far between.

    Murphy is also a guy who many had high expectations for going into this season, especially when he was a starter in the team's first two exhibition games.

    Instead, the redshirt freshman is usually the third or fourth option off the bench and rarely gets more than a few minutes of action in a game.

    Murphy has improved of late, but this season still hasn't been what we were expecting from him.

Marshall Plumlee: Incomplete

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    The coaching staff was expecting big things from Marshall Plumlee before the season began, but a foot injury threw off his development.

    Plumlee has been unable to shake off the rust of missing so much action at the beginning of the season, and he is still adjusting to the college game.

    He clearly has athletic ability and great intensity, but he can't be judged on meeting expectations until he gets healthy.

Ryan Kelly: Incomplete

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    Before suffering a foot injury against Clemson on January 8, Ryan Kelly was having an outstanding season.

    The senior forward from Raleigh, N.C. was averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while shooting over 52 percent from behind the three-point line. Also, Kelly was arguably Duke's best defender.

    Unfortunately, the injury has Kelly sidelined indefinitely and now everyone is hoping he can make it back in time for the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

    If there's ever a time when a player's season felt incomplete, Kelly's would be it.

Todd Zafirovski: Pass

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    If you are a walk-on for the Duke basketball team and you score five points in a season, you have exceeded everyone's expectations.

    Todd Zafirovski's contributions are certainly felt more in practice when he offers his body up against guys like Mason Plumlee and Josh Hairston, but the senior forward also had some shining moments on the court this season.

    Zafirovski scored two points in a win over Delaware, and he also chipped in three points in the victory over Cornell.

    Most people don't know who he is, but players like Zafirovski are critical to a team's success.