This represents the first in a series of three previews breaking down the Duke Basketball season. This series represents a collaboration between members of the Duke Basketball Page and will look at the Blue Devil's front court, back court and bench.
For most of the 30 years that Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski has roamed the sidelines in Durham, the strength of his teams have been centered around guard play.
After all Krzyzewski, a former point guard at Army under legendary coach Bob Knight, knows a thing or two about good guards.
But if you were to look at this year’s team you would see something drastically different.
This year’s version of the Blue Devils boasts size─lots of size─and not much in the way of back court depth.
With the limited number of guards, Krzyzewski moved Duke's best post player from the last two seasons, Kyle Singer, to the perimeter.
Krzyzewski has admitted that he has never had a team this big. That size comes in the way of Brian Zoubek (7-1), Miles and Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, (all 6-10), Lance Thomas (6-8), and Olek Czyz (6-7).
Of those six post players, Zoubek, Thomas, and much improved Miles Plumlee have starting experience. Add to that group a very skilled Mason Plumlee who is an early pick as a starter in the middle and you have a solid front court rotation.
And that doesn't include the versatility of a player like Kelly who has the skills of a wing forward with the height of a power forward.
Where in recent years Duke's front court has been a weakness, expect this year's front court to be a real strength of this team.
Look no further for examples than Saturday's first preseason matchup with Pfeiffer College. In that game Miles and Mason Plumlee contributed a combined 29 points and 26 rebounds.
Those are impressive numbers out of the projected starters in the post.
Kelly chipped in 18 points, Zoubek 14, and Czyz added another 11.
While Pfeiffer, who had no player over 6-7, wasn't really a match for the Blue Devil's front court, it wouldn't be surprising to see a large rebound margin in favor of Duke in most games this season.
With Duke's lack of mid-range sized and perimeter players you can expect to see more zone defense this year. This will take advantage of what should be a drastically improved interior defense that features legitimate shot blockers in the Plumlees and Zoubek.
The Blue Devils will encounter some difficulties with smaller more athletic teams that feature good guards and wing players. However, Duke's bigger more versatile players should be able to help out.
If Duke's guards can force opposing team's slashers into the heart of their interior the shot blockers will be able to neutralize a lot of that threat.
On offense, Miles Plumlee has shown he is a lot more comfortable in his second season. Freshman brother Mason will be the better of the two, and barring the typical freshman woes, he has the skill set to be Duke's most potent offensive weapon on the interior.
In addition to the Plumlees' scoring ability, they like Kelly, can pass which should create open looks for the Blue Devil's shooters.
The fact that Kelly himself is a good shooter will make him a difficult matchup when he is in the game.
Overall this season the Blue Devils feature the deepest and most skilled front court in quite some time.
While you should expect either Plumlee to be the second coming of Christian Laettner or Elton Brand, they will be able to hold their own. Add in the versatility off the bench and Duke will be a force down low this season.
Projected Starters: Mason and Mile Plumlee
Krzyzewski stated at the beginning of practice that if the season started now, that the two brothers would be in the starting lineup. They both are versatile and could be an excellent one-two-punch in the post.
Key Bench Players: Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Ryan Kelly
Thomas will be the first off the bench, but expect heavy doses of Zoubek and Kelly especially if foul trouble becomes a problem.
Wild Card: Olek Czyz
Czyz really looked lost last year. If he can show some improvement he is athletic enough to get some playing time.