Duke Basketball: Blue Devils' 5 Biggest Concerns in ACC Play

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2014

Duke Basketball: Blue Devils' 5 Biggest Concerns in ACC Play

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    This season’s Duke basketball team is far from flawless.

    While the Blue Devils have one of the most talented squads in the ACC, issues have been exposed through their first 14 games of the season.

    Mike Krzyzewski’s team will need to improve in a variety of areas in order for Duke to win another conference championship.

    The following looks at the team’s five biggest concerns in ACC play.

5. Physical Post Players

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    The Blue Devils’ lack of a true big man has been critical in their three losses this season.

    Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston are undersized to match up with bigger post players, and Marshall Plumlee has yet to receive significant minutes to make a legitimate impact this season.

    With upcoming games against guys such as Daniel Miller, Talib Zanna, Charles Mitchell and Mike Tobey, Duke needs to come up with an effective way to successfully defend against teams with size.

    If they can’t, it could lead to more disappointing performances like what the Blue Devils showed against Notre Dame.

4. Lack of Leadership

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    Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    Last season’s Duke team was led by three experienced, senior starters—Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly. When the Blue Devils needed a play in a close game, they turned to one of these three stars.

    Now, that responsibility must fall to someone else.

    Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have the ability to develop into this role, but they’re still relatively inexperienced. Quinn Cook appears willing to accept it, but he still needs to prove he can actually succeed at it.

    Regardless of who it is, this team needs a leader who will come through in clutch moments.

3. Rebounding Struggles

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    Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    According to ESPN.com, Duke averages 34.9 rebounds per game, which is 214th in the country.

    To say the Blue Devils are vulnerable on the glass is an understatement.

    It’s one of the disadvantages of the smaller lineups Krzyzewski elects to use, and it’s one of the reasons Duke has struggled with bigger teams this season.

    For a team that’s already struggled on the defensive end this season, providing extra opportunities to their opponents because of poor rebounding is a dangerous combination.

2. Inconsistent Guard Play

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    One of the best features of this Duke lineup is the depth at the guard position.

    Between Rasheed Sulaimon, Cook, Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones, Krzyzewski has a variety of weapons he can rotate in among the two guard positions.

    Unfortunately, Duke’s guards—particularly Sulaimon and Dawkins—have struggled with consistency this season.

    When the guards are inconsistent, they create added pressure for Parker and Hood, and those two can’t be asked to do much more.

1. Defense

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    Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    In Duke’s ACC opening loss, the Blue Devils allowed Notre Dame to shoot more than 52 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

    It’s also important to remember that the Fighting Irish were playing without leading scorer Jerian Grant, who’s been dismissed from the school due to academic reasons.

    When Duke doesn’t play perimeter defense, it allows teams the opportunity to attack the lane, where the Blue Devils are already vulnerable because of their lack of size.

    As good as the offense has been for the Blue Devils this season, they must get much better on defense in order to have a chance for postseason success.