Duke Basketball: 1 Pressing Concern for Each Blue Devils Starter

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Duke Basketball: 1 Pressing Concern for Each Blue Devils Starter

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    This season’s Duke basketball team has proved to be vulnerable in certain situations.

    The Blue Devils have yet to win a true road game through this point in the season, and they’ve struggled with teams that have forced them to play at a slower pace.

    Opponents have figured out a way to exploit Duke’s biggest weaknesses, which includes creating specific problems for each player on the court for Mike Krzyzewski.

    The following looks at the most pressing concern for each member of Duke’s starting lineup.

Quinn Cook: Making Quality Decisions

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    As a junior in his second year as the starting point guard for the Blue Devils, Quinn Cook has taken on more of a leadership role with this season’s team.

    He’s more vocal with his teammates, and he often makes critical decisions with the ball in his hands in clutch situations.

    It’s important for Duke that Cook not try to do things outside of his game and force tough shots or passes because he feels the need to make a play. Instead, the veteran point guard must stay poised and recognize the talent he has around him.

    If he can make good decisions down the stretch in close games, the Blue Devils will be very dangerous.

Matt Jones: Understanding His Role as a Starter

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Matt Jones’ role has fluctuated throughout the season, and it could continue to evolve as Mike Krzyzewski experiments with different lineups and substitution patterns.

    For now, Jones finds himself in the starting lineup, and he needs to stay focused on what his primary role is as a starter, which is to provide energy and defense.

    Although Jones arrived at Duke with a reputation as a premier perimeter shooter, his defense is what has earned him minutes as a freshman. Quinn Cook, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker will be the main offensive options when Jones is on the floor, and his offense is just a complementary piece to their abilities.

    Where he can continue to have a significant impact on the game for the Blue Devils is on the defensive side of the ball.

Rodney Hood: Inconsistent Defense

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Rodney Hood has been one of the most potent offensive weapons in the ACC this season.

    He’s averaging 17.9 points per game while shooting over 51 percent from the field, 45 percent from beyond the three-point line and 84.7 percent from the free-throw line. He’s in the top five in the ACC in all of these categories.

    However, Hood hasn’t been nearly as effective with his defense.

    He’s struggled with defensive rotations in many games for the Blue Devils and often gives up rebounding position because of an inability to box out.

    Duke needs Hood to become a better defender to help correct some of the issues that have led to the Blue Devils struggling to come up with key stops.

Jabari Parker: Settling for Jump Shots

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    While Jabari Parker is one of the most versatile players in college basketball, there are times when he relies too much on his perimeter shooting.

    During Parker’s recent scoring slump, he settled for 20 three-point attempts over a four-game period. For a player who wasn’t shooting well and has the ability to operate in the paint, this was far too many perimeter shots for Parker.

    He made a commitment to attack the lane against N.C. State, which later created opportunities for him to also stretch the defense with his outside shot.

    For the superstar freshman to be at his best, he must use an inside-out game that puts pressure on the defense.

Amile Jefferson: Facing Bigger Post Players

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Amile Jefferson has emerged as one of Duke’s most valuable players over the past two games.

    He’s become a consistent rebounder and his defense is improving, while his offensive skills continue to be an excellent fit with Duke’s primary ball-handlers.

    Yet, Jefferson still finds himself in difficult situations when he’s forced to match up against more traditional big men. He struggled to stop Daniel Miller of Georgia Tech and Garrick Sherman of Notre Dame, in part because he was giving up 40 pounds to both players.

    One way Mike Krzyzewski can help take some of the pressure off of Jefferson in these matchups is by continuing to give Marshall Plumlee more playing time, which allows Jefferson to shift to his more natural position at the 4-spot.