Jabari Parker is a beast. One thing Duke fans can be happy about after Tuesday night’s loss to the Kansas Jayhawks is the play of their freshman sensation out of Simeon High School.
Parker’s 27-point, nine-rebound performance kept the Blue Devils in it and was the reason for their halftime lead. His ridiculous 19-point first half had many people leaping from the Andrew Wiggins bandwagon straight onto Parker’s.
Wiggins and the Jayhawks, however, did not give in. After trailing by two after the 20-minute mark, Kansas went on to win the game 94-83. An impressive second half and a few clutch plays from Wiggins sealed the victory for No. 5 Kansas.
While it is extremely early and Duke does not need to worry, we’ll take a look at a few things the Blue Devils and their fans should at least keep an eye on.
Duke’s starting five is tremendous. It's easily one of the best starting lineups in the country, and then having the ability to bring sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon off the bench is a luxury. After Sulaimon, however, their bench’s ability severely drops off.
It will be interesting to see how Coach K manages his players’ minutes throughout the season and if we continue to see just six players getting the bulk of the minutes. It is not unfathomable to think a rotation like the one we saw from Duke last night will work, but a short rotation can cause major problems. If the Blue Devils get into early foul trouble or go down with an injury, they will need more than Rasheed Sulaimon coming off the bench.
The game of college basketball always seems to come down to free throws. No matter if it’s the national championship or just a regular game in November, free throws are always key. For Duke, it was their biggest issue on Tuesday.
The Blue Devils shot a very poor 57 percent from the free-throw line last night. Their 12 misses at the line were a huge reason they did not pull away from the Jayhawks and is why Kansas was able to stay within striking distance. Kansas, on the other hand, sealed their victory by making their last seven free throws in the final 63 seconds.
If the Blue Devils thought the pressure was high last night, they’re in for a rude awakening come March. Coach K will need his team to step up their free-throw shooting if they want to make a run in the tournament, or it could come back to kill them.
The Blue Devils were out-rebounded 39-24 in last night’s game and were even beaten on the glass in their first game against Davidson. The dominant rebounding of the Jayhawks should be a cause of concern for Duke.
Jabari Parker was clearly their best rebounder last night, as he brought down nine while no other Duke player had more than four. Forward Amile Jefferson’s two rebounds in 37 minutes so far this season is something that needs to be addressed and worked on.
Many of the top teams have multiple, tough big men in the post who can rebound, and that may be something Duke lacks. Unlike Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley for Arizona, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson for Michigan State or Alex Poythress and Julius Randle for Kentucky, Duke doesn't have someone to help out Jabari Parker.
A few things to keep in mind is that it is only November, Kansas is one of the top teams in the country and Duke has Mike Krzyzewski on their sidelines. Coach K has plenty of time to get his team ready for March Madness, and he will certainly do just that.
No problem Duke is facing is too big to overcome, and if Jabari Parker can keep doing things like last night, they will be just fine.