Duke Basketball: Rasheed Sulaimon Should Start Over Tyler Thornton

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 15:  Rasheed Sulaimon #14 of the Duke Blue Devils looks to pass between Alex Len #25 and Pe'Shon Howard #21 of the Maryland Terrapins in the first half of their game during the quarterfinals of the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 15, 2013 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For the most part, Mike Krzyzewski's lineup is set. Duke starts three seniors in Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry while sophomore Quinn Cook is the team's undisputed point guard.

However, the fifth spot in the starting lineup for the Blue Devils has been an open competition over the past few weeks.

For much of the season, freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon held down the starting role. But Sulaimon has had ups and downs as a freshman and has occasionally been replaced by Tyler Thornton in the starting lineup.

As Bleacher Report's Dantzler Smith points out, Sulaimon has also struggled at times to keep his composure when things go wrong.

Thornton, a junior, brings more experience to the floor and is known for his toughness and scrappy defense. Sulaimon, on the other hand, is a solid perimeter defender, but is much better known for his explosive offensive ability.

According to StatSheet.com, both have played in all 32 games for the Blue Devils this season with Sulaimon having started in 29 games and Thornton having started in six games. Sulaimon averages over 29 minutes per game while Thornton plays over 22 minutes per game.

But in Duke's two most recent games, Thornton has been the one in the starting lineup for Duke. He played excellently on the road against North Carolina, but followed that up with an ugly performance against Maryland in the ACC Tournament.

In contrast, Sulaimon struggled on the road against North Carolina, but he was one of the only bright spots for the Blue Devils in the loss to Maryland.

Considering the skills both players bring to the table, it's time for Mike Krzyzewski to reinsert Rasheed Sulaimon in the starting lineup and leave him there for the duration of Duke's NCAA Tournament run. Sulaimon has proven he's a capable defender and he provides much more offense than Tyler Thornton.

Sulaimon's ability to make plays off the dribble should create more opportunities and better spacing for the offense. He also has an impressive mid-range game, which gives Duke two excellent wing-scorers when he is on the floor with Seth Curry.

Thornton is a player who has more experience coming off the bench and he can provide some energy for the team if it needs a lift. He will occasionally knock down perimeter shots, but there is also a reason opposing defenses often elect to leave him open to take those shots.

There's no question Duke will need contributions from both players if the team is going to make a run to the Final Four. But Rasheed Sulaimon is too talented a player to not receive the majority of the minutes, and that means having him on the floor when the game starts.