Duke Basketball: Madness Was Fun, but Now It's Time to Address the What Ifs

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 18, 2009

Duke's Countdown to Craziness went off without a hitch and by all accounts was a huge success.

The players, coaches, and crowd had a lot of fun celebrating the start of the college basketball season.

Now it is time for the Blue Devils to get to work, and there is a lot of work to be done.

Duke is still capable of being a team that can make some noise come March, even though many don't know what to think about them this year.

If the Blue Devils can turn some "ifs" into definite results and Mike Krzyzewski gets his team to work hard and sure up several areas, Duke could have a high ceiling for success.


It is often said that the "D" in Duke stands for defense. While the team has been good defensively over the last couple years, they haven't been great.

And the one thing that sets all of Krzyzewski's greatest teams apart is that they were great defensively.

This year’s crop of Devils provides Krzyzewski something he hasn't had in quite some time, if ever. Size.

It will be interesting to see how Krzyzewski incorporates the size into his pressure man-to-man defense.

He spoke in the offseason along with several players about incorporating more zone defense. And while I expect to see more zone I still am expecting to see a lot of man.

If Duke's big men and thin backcourt can stay out of foul trouble while playing man-to-man defense, expect to see a lot of it. If not, then you may see Krzyzewski go to more zone.  

With the combination of Miles and Mason Plumlee plus Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and possibly Ryan Kelly or Kyle Singer, Duke's interior defense should be a force.

If the guards can stay healthy and out of foul trouble then Duke's defense could be very good, if not great

An Inside Presence At Long Last

With all due respect to Thomas and Zoubek, Duke has lacked an inside presence since Sheldon Williams departed Durham.

Josh McRoberts was supposed to fit the bill but never materialized as a go-to-guy.

Now Duke fans and coaches are hoping that freshman Mason Plumlee is that guy in the post. And early indications are promising.

The thing is, don't expect Plumlee to be a Williams-type player, at least not yet. There is plenty of offensive weapons in Jon Scheyer, Singer, and Nolan Smith for Mason Plumlee not to have to worry about being a primary scoring option in the post.

If he can rebound, defend, and get points off put backs and score at the free throw line, he will provide Duke an option it hasn't had in a while.

Add in the experience of Zoubek, Thomas and you could have a solid frontcourt.

Stretch the Backcourt

Everyone by now knows the Blue Devil's backcourt is razor thin.

After the departure of Gerald Henderson and Elliott Williams, Duke was down to two experienced guards. Add in freshman Andre Dawkins, who decided to enroll early, and Duke still only has three true guards.

Krzyzewski's decision to play Singler solely on the perimeter will help, but if Duke suffers an injury or gets into foul trouble, the lack of depth will be a major problem.

It is imperative for the Blue Devils to stretch out the backcourt and use their big men both defensively and offensively to help take some of the pressure off the guards and wings.

One major benefit will be Duke's perimeter size. The shortest player is roughly 6-3 or 6-4 and that size could create some matchup problems for teams with shorter perimeters.

Singler's versatility will be a major x-factor for Duke on offense and defense.

The Other Plumlee

Much has been made about Mason Plumlee, but his brother Miles, who has already had a year in the Duke system, could be a major factor.

Depending on how much improvement he shows in competition, Miles Plumlee could end up being the better of the two, at least this year.

Last year he looked uncomfortable in the offense but showed a proclivity for blocking shots.

If his offensive skill set starts to shine through he could end up being Duke's most complete player in the interior. 

Freshman Support

While Duke is an experienced team, they will be depending on several freshman to contribute.

Obviously Mason Plumlee will be called on a lot, but expect Dawkins to get significant minutes coming off the bench. If he can play within the system and let the game come to him he could be a major contributor.

Kelly probably provides the most mystery as far as the freshman go. He definitely can shoot, but will he be able to play good enough defense to stay on the floor?

If he can, expect to see him spell Singler on the perimeter if not one of the post players.

If he becomes a defensive liability, expect to only see the freshman in spot situational roles for this year until he learns the system and picks up some strength.

How successful Duke will be this year is still uncertain. Many expect a top 15 or even top 10 team.

And many expect them to compete for the ACC Championship.

However, if the Blue Devils want to get back to national prominence, it will take a lot of hard work and a few "ifs" to become facts.

If that happens, then Duke can start thinking about an extended stay in the tournament this year.


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