Duke Basketball Tips Off Short Handed Friday Night But Don't Panic

Mike KlineAnalyst INovember 13, 2009

BOSTON - MARCH 26:  Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles against the Villanova Wildcats during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regionals at TD Banknorth Garden on March 26, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

If most teams were to begin a season without the services of two projected starters, that would be cause for concern.

That isn't the case, at least yet, for the 2009-10 version of the Duke Blue Devils basketball team.

Compounding the suspension of guard Nolan Smith for two games due to playing in illegal summer games, Duke announced Thursday projected starter Mason Plumlee would be out indefinitely due to a fractured bone in his wrist.

It would be easy for Duke fans to begin to worry but in the immortal words of Douglas Adams "Don't Panic."

If there were ever a time to be without two starters, both of whom will be back, it is the beginning of the year.

Smith will only miss the season opener against UNC-Greensboro and the second game against Coastal Carolina.

Plumlee will miss those games and then some but because his injury doesn't require surgery there is reason to hope he will be back sooner than later.

In either case, Smith's absence will be missed more than Plumlee's, but in these first two games, it shouldn't be too much of a problem.

No disrespect to either opponent, but Duke is too talented to lose to either. If they do, then there are far bigger concerns for this team than previously thought.

Still there is a silver lining.

Duke's Achilles' heel this year will be backcourt depth.

So without Smith for the first two games they can get a taste of playing in situations with an even reduced back court presence—one that may pop up due to an injury or foul trouble.

That game experience isn't something you can practice.

If Duke survives these first two games unscathed I fully expect them to benefit in the long run.

Freshman Andre Dawkins will have to step up and expect to see more of Ryan Kelly, especially without Mason Plumlee.

Blue Devil fans may even see more time from crowd favorite Olek Czyz, who could pick up some minutes in the post.

The bottom line is don't expect this Duke team with its veteran leadership and Hall of Fame coach to just roll over because of a couple early set backs.

If this were January or February then you could panic, but since we are only in November there is plenty of time to work out all the kinks and still have a good year.