Duke Basketball fans are very excited about the potential lineup of the 2013-14 Blue Devils.
The team appears to be loaded with a dangerous combination of athletic players who have skills that will complement each other and flourish under Mike Krzyzewski.
However, things are never that simple for any coach or college basketball team.
As with any season, Mike Krzyzewski will eventually find himself in some challenging spots where he has to make difficult decisions regarding his lineup.
The following slideshow looks as the toughest lineup decisions for Coach K in the upcoming season.
Barring an unexpected injury, it’s unlikely Alex Murphy or Semi Ojeleye will find themselves in the starting lineup this season. Yet, both players offer unique abilities that could earn them a valuable spot coming off the bench.
It will be interesting to see if one can emerge as a better role player for the Blue Devils.
Alex Murphy is entering his third year in the program and much has been made about his potential, but it has yet to earn him consistent playing time as he still has defensive struggles.
Ojeleye joins the Duke program after being one of the most decorated players in the history of Kansas high school basketball and appears to be an unbelievable athlete.
Mike Krzyzewski could be forced to decide between Ojeleye’s raw athleticism or Murphy’s experience and offensive game.
There were times last season when Quinn Cook struggled with his man-to-man defense.
He had trouble keeping opposing point guards in front of him and would get lost in pick-and-roll situations that would leave Duke’s big men exposed.
Cook should be one of the most dynamic point guards in the country next season as he leads Duke’s high-caliber offense that will look to push the tempo. The primary concern is that Duke might have to sacrifice some defensive pressure if Cook doesn’t improve his man-to-man defense.
Mike Krzyzewski has always placed a huge emphasis on strong defense, and he could be in a tricky spot with Cook. Tyler Thornton is an excellent defender but not nearly as explosive with the ball as Cook.
It will be interesting to see how Coach K manages the strengths and weaknesses of his two point guards.
Josh Hairston enters the 2013-14 season as one of the most experienced players on the team.
This will be his fourth year in the program, and he’s been a regular part of Mike Krzyzewski’s rotation for the past two seasons. While he’s not a strong offensive weapon, he’s a great interior defender and an adequate rebounder.
Hairston knows his role and has the experience to handle difficult situations.
Amile Jefferson saw limited playing time last season as a freshman but showed glimpses of great potential when he was in the game.
Jefferson has the physical tools to be a dynamic post player for Duke, but he may need time to grow into that role as he receives more minutes.
What will Krzyzewski be more comfortable with? Will he go with what he knows in Hairston? Or will he increase Jefferson’s responsibility?
A strong argument could be made that Duke should have at least 10 guys receiving regular playing time this season. Actually, the Blue Devils have the talent to go 12-deep.
Yet, Mike Krzyzewski has also been known to shorten his rotation and rely heavily on his starters.
It’s understandable as he wants his best players to receive the majority of the playing time, but this will be one of the deepest teams Duke has ever had.
The freshmen like Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones will have to work hard in practice and prove themselves when they get opportunities for Krzyzewski to have confidence in them later in the season.
Coach K has shown in the past that he’s willing to use a deep lineup. The key will be the players proving they deserve the playing time.
There have been many ideas floated around about how Duke will handle the center spot this season.
Will Mike Krzyzewski use a committee approach with Amile Jefferson, Josh Hairston and Marshall Plumlee? Will one of those players receive the majority of the minutes? Will Jabari Parker shift over to the five spot?
The Blue Devils could try any of those solutions as the season progresses.
However, they will likely benefit from using a smaller lineup once conference play begins. Aside from Maryland and Georgia Tech, very few teams in the ACC have much size and interior depth, meaning Duke shouldn’t be at a disadvantage with its lack of size.
Things could change once the Blue Devils reach the NCAA tournament, but hopefully they’ll have everything worked out by then.