There were a number of questions surrounding the Duke Basketball program a few weeks ago.
The Blue Devils had dropped two of three games to begin ACC play and appeared to be in serious jeopardy of struggling through the season.
However, some coaching adjustments by Mike Krzyzewski and a commitment to better defense and rebounding has the Blue Devils back to playing like one of the best teams in the country.
Let’s look at five burning questions for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
In Duke’s win over Virginia on January 13, Mike Krzyzewski made the decision to take advantage of his bench and use a more frequent substitution pattern.
Ten Blue Devils played at least seven minutes as Duke used a line-change rotation where Krzyzewski would rotate five players in at one time. It helped the team stay fresh and it’s been a key in how Duke has been able to turn its season around over the past three weeks.
Mike Krzyzewski has been known to shorten his rotation in the postseason, but it will be critical for him to continue to utilize Duke’s depth in March.
Coach K has to continue to keep his confidence in his bench and rely on those guys to step up in the tough moments down the stretch.
Amile Jefferson has been a revelation for the Blue Devils with his play over the past month.
The 6’9” sophomore forward has given Duke a legitimate post presence and he’s playing the best basketball of his career. He’s scored in double figures the past two games and is showing why he’s such a great compliment to Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker.
The emergence of Marshall Plumlee has also helped take some of the pressure off Jefferson to be Duke’s only answer in the paint, and he appears to be playing with more confidence.
In order for the Blue Devils to make a run in the NCAA tournament, Jefferson will need to continue to play at a high level.
Duke cannot afford for Quinn Cook to be a liability in the postseason.
He’s one of the most experienced players on the team as the junior point guard, and he has to be more consistent than what he’s shown lately.
Cook is just three of 15 from three-point range over the past three games, and he’s only scored in double figures one time in the past seven games.
He isn’t known for his defense, so it’s important for Cook to at least provide his team with reliable offensive contributions.
Duke’s wing players are doing a great job of attacking defenses and penetrating to the basket, which creates open looks from the perimeter for the guards. Cook needs to be able to take advantage of the opportunities his teammates are creating for him.
Despite not shooting well, Jabari Parker has shown a tremendous amount of improvement in his game since the disappointing loss to Clemson.
He’s still making freshman mistakes, but his shot selection is improving, he’s becoming a terrific rebounder and his defense has been much more consistent.
Teams are dedicating more attention to stopping Parker, but he’s finding gaps in the defense and creating mismatches with his versatility, which also opens things up for the entire Duke offense.
Hopefully he’ll be able to put everything together and find himself in peak form when the games matter most.
It’s one of the luxuries for the elite programs in college basketball that the coach usually has multiple options for who can be the go-to scorer in tough situations.
Duke has a roster full of guys who have always been willing to step up and make the play when their team needed it most. However, it’s still unclear if the Blue Devils are all on the same page as to who that option should be in the biggest moments.
Rasheed Sulaimon has knocked down some incredible shots this season in clutch moments. Rodney Hood appears ready to attack when the situation calls for it. Andre Dawkins always seems like a good option when he has an open look at the basket. And Jabari Parker is likely the most talented player on the team.
With all these great options, we’ll see if Duke gets to a point where one of these players becomes the best answer.