Tis' the season to be jolly, deck the halls, and shorten the Duke Basketball team's bench.
Every Duke fan out there knows that once the preseason tournaments, cup cakes and traditionally early season games wrap up following final exams, Mike Krzyzewski shortens his bench to a typical rotation of about seven to eight players.
So far this season doesn't look like it will differ too much form past seasons, much to the chagrin of some die hard Blue Devil fans who want to see more depth.
That has been a knock on Duke for as long as I can remember and now, given the recent departure of Olek Czyz due to lack of playing time, it is rearing its ugly head again.
I'm not sure why anyone is surprised or even bothers to have the discussion. It is a common occurrence.
So, 10 games into the season Duke has a 9-1 record and if you look at the challenging games, namely Connecticut and Wisconsin, Duke has used significantly shorter benches.
Looking into the crystal ball it is fairly clear who will get the short end of the playing time stick.
Any of the Walk-ons
Not that Casey Peters or Steve Johnson have seen much if any action this season, so don't expect to see them coming out of their warm-up unis any time soon.
Unless the game is no longer in doubt with three or fewer minutes left to go, these guys are practice contributors.
Kelly who has drawn a lot of comparisons to one-time Devil Mike Dunleavy, hasn't fully caught up to speed just yet for major Division I basketball.
That isn't to say he won't see the floor, but right now it looks like Krzyzewski will be content to let Kelly learn and grow stronger this season from the bench.
He will be used sparingly as a shooting option, but right now he lacks the strength and quickness on the defensive end to gain a lot of minutes.
Zoubek presents an interesting dilemma for Duke. He has played some decent games this season but hasn't been able to avoid his lack of horizontal quickness which leads to many bad fouls.
He will see playing time, especially if the matchups are right, but as soon as Mason Plumlee is up to speed, expect him to see less than 20 if not 15 minutes per game.
It is conceivable that Thomas could start most of the remaining games, but if Mason Plumlee does step into that line up as projected earlier Thomas will see his minutes dwindle a bit, though probably not as much a Zoubek due to his level athleticism and defensive prowess.
I can see Thomas pulling 18 solid minutes easily as either a starter or reserve player.
Dr. Tre as I like to call him will definitely see the floor as the primary back up to either Nolan Smith or Jon Scheyer.
As of now, his shooting has guaranteed he sees the floor, and his athleticism is good enough to make him less of a defensive liability than most freshmen.
I can see Dawkins getting anywhere from 12 to 18 minutes per game easily and more if foul trouble or his hot shooting require his presence.
Mason Plumlee's playing time should increase proportionally with his improved defense and decision making, or as foul trouble plagues his brother Miles, Zoubek or Thomas.
He missed several weeks with a broken wrist and even though he says he is full speed it is clear that he isn't quite where he needs or wants to be just yet.
In time he could easily crack the starting line up.
The Rest of the Bunch
Expect major minutes from Kyle Singler, Scheyer, and Smith. They will all three generally play a majority of the game, at least 30 plus minutes.
There will be games where all three, or at least Scheyer and Singler, may play all 40 minutes. Smith will be get subbed for by Dawkins when shooting is a priority.
The only established starter who will play less time than the big three would be Miles Plumlee. He has shown the most improvement from last year and has been playing solidly for most of the season.
He is occasionally prone to committing silly fouls but in general is a good shot blocker and a viable option at the high or low post on offense. As long as he stays in the games mentally he will stay in the games physically.
Right now I would expect the starters to continue to be Scheyer, Singler, Smith, Thomas and Miles Plumlee.
Mason Plumlee, Zoubek, and Dawkins will be the primary subs off the bench. Kelly could see some action but I think most should expect a Miles Plumlee-esque freshman season for him.
Blue Devil fans can expect to see a different style of Duke team this year but in the end the rotation and depth used by the coaching staff will be the same old Duke this season.