The Champions Classic showdown against Andrew Wiggins and Kansas didn’t go the way Duke would have liked, but there are plenty of positive signs to the start of the 2013-14 season.
Regardless of the loss to the Jayhawks, it is clear the Blue Devils are one of the best teams in the nation and likely the favorites in the ACC (although Syracuse would probably have something to say about that).
Read on to see some of those positive signs from the start of the campaign.
Duke’s not only shooting the ball well, it is shooting the absolute lights out.
Through Friday’s game against Florida Atlantic, the Blue Devils were ranked second in the nation in field-goal shooting at 58.6 percent. All that hot shooting has translated to 97 points a night, including a 111-point performance to open the year against Davidson.
In fact, there are currently eight players on the roster that are shooting at least 50 percent from the floor. Even the superstars who are shooting in high volumes are off to blazing starts, as evidenced by Jabari Parker’s 58.5 percent and Rodney Hood’s 69 percent.
It would be unreasonable to expect the Blue Devils to continue to shoot this effectively, but if they continue to rank near the top of the nation in field-goal percentage they will be tough to beat.
There is so much talent on the Duke roster that it can almost be overwhelming for the point guard tasked with finding enough shots for everyone, including himself.
After all, Quinn Cook is more than capable of putting the ball in the basket and is averaging 13 points a game thus far. But it is Cook’s assist-to-turnover numbers that will make Mike Krzyzewski the happiest.
Cook is averaging 6.7 dimes a night as opposed to only 1.3 turnovers a game. Last season Cook coughed it up 2.2 times a night, so the better than five-to-one assist-to-turnover is a more than welcome sign in Durham.
All he has to do is find his talented teammates. They’ll make sure to do the rest.
We knew Jabari Parker could score when he was dominating the high school basketball scene in Chicago, and he has continued to do so at an elite level as Duke’s primary option.
He is averaging 23.3 points a night and became the first ever freshman under Coach K to score at least 20 points in three straight games. With Parker’s offensive arsenal and ability to score from anywhere in the half-court set, there is no reason to expect his scoring to tail off over the course of the year.
However, it is his overall game that will propel him into National Player of the Year discussions by March.
He leads the Blue Devils in rebounding with better than eight a night, is averaging better than a steal and a block a game and hasn’t turned it over very often (only 1.3 turnovers a game, which is impressive considering how often he has the ball in his hands).
Parker has turned into a force on both ends of the floor and is grabbing rebounds left and right.
Jabari Parker got all the preseason hype when commentators discussed Duke, and for good reason, but Rodney Hood is a superstar in his own right.
The Mississippi State transfer is averaging 20.3 points a night thus far, behind a blazing 69 percent mark from the field. He poured in 28 points against Florida Atlantic and hit 12-13 from the charity stripe, which is important in this season of whistles across the college basketball landscape.
Hood struggled a bit in the Kansas game with five turnovers, but it is clear he is a superstar in the making. While opposing defenses hone in on Parker, Hood will be the one to benefit from the open space on the floor.
Look for him to continue scoring at a high rate.
If there is one area on the floor where Duke isn’t exactly elite it is on the interior, but one way to counteract that is by hitting threes at an impressive rate.
And that is exactly what the Blue Devils have done through three games.
Duke is shooting a borderline-ridiculous 51.6 percent from behind the three-point line, and the numbers are even more impressive when they are broken down at an individual level. Tyler Thornton checks in at 75 percent, Jabari Parker is shooting 68.8 percent, Andrew Dawkins is at 62.5 percent, Rodney Hood is at 60 percent and Rasheed Sulaimon is at 50 percent.
Much like the field-goal percentage, it is unrealistic to expect these guys to hit threes at a better rate than some teams shoot free throws, but the perimeter game will be a weapon all season for the Blue Devils.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.