Duke's win over Marquette was nothing to write home about, but a win is a win.
The No.1 team found itself in a battle against a gritty Golden Eagle squad that refused to back down from the Blue Devils.
Early season challenges are genuinely a good thing and Duke can learn a lot from this one.
The most encouraging occurrence was the breakout performance of Mason Plumlee who scored 25 points, and grabbed 12 rebounds. He also had five blocked shots.
He clearly helped give Duke a boost in the paint, but he also demonstrated his athleticism running the floor and his ability to pass the ball to teammates.
Many have expected this type of performance from Mason Plumlee since last year, and a few more performances like this will help establish him as one of the best big men in the country.
On the other end of the spectrum is the absolute funk that Mason Plumlee's older brother has been in so far this season.
It's still early, but Miles Plumlee has shown signs of regressing.
He had trouble holding on to the ball against Marquette, bobbled several passes and had a hard time bringing in rebounds.
As a result he sat on the bench for a majority of the game, even when the outcome was in question.
Whether or not his injured finger contributed to his poor handling is irrelevant—Plumlee had better watch out because sophomore Ryan Kelly has been playing well so far.
Other Early Season Observations
-Duke has to get better at free throw shooting.
The Marquette game was made closer in the end than it had to be because Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving and Nolan Smith all missed the front end of one and ones.
-Duke has a lot of young guys who must learn the intensity with which opposing teams are going to bring.
No one is running away because D-U-K-E is written on the front of your jersey.
-Duke's defense still needs some work. With a few new parts, the Blue Devils communication isn't where it needs to be. They have shown some glimpses, but aren't there yet.
-Duke needs the get the ball into Kyle Singler's hands more on the offensive end. It seemed like he rarely got a look at the basket down the stretch.
He's not the preseason National Player of the Year for nothing.
-For now it might be a good idea to keep the ball in Nolan Smith's hands as the primary ball handler. Irving is good, but his lack of experience makes Smith the better option right now.
-Duke fans need to expect an early season loss at some point this season. They also need not panic and start jumping off the ledge.
This team is going to be very good but it might not be until February when they get to be the "scary good" like many thought they would be out of the gate.
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