Miles and Mason Plumlee: What Is Wrong with Duke's Big Men?

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2011

Mason and Miles Plumlee are struggling to live up to the expectations, but more importantly are struggling to produce consistently for Duke.
Mason and Miles Plumlee are struggling to live up to the expectations, but more importantly are struggling to produce consistently for Duke.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Much has been made of the struggles of Duke's big men since the beginning of the year.

With the exception of just a few games, both Miles and Mason Plumlee have seemingly failed to live up to the hype and expectations they had to start the season.

Both were expected to provide the Blue Devils with an inside scoring threat, and step up and fill the void of Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek, whose combined work on the offensive and defensive boards helped Duke win its fourth National Title last year.

So far, that has not happened.

Both players possess the kind of athletic ability and improved strength that would make it reasonable to expect big contributions. But a lack of consistency from either has many scratching their heads, wondering which Plumlees will show up from one game to the next.

What aren't the Plumlee brothers doing well?

Offensive rebounding has been a weakness. The thing that made Duke a title team last year was Zoubek and Thomas' ability to give the Blue Devils second chance points on offensive rebounds.

Neither Plumlee has been able to do that consistently. Mason has been the team's best rebounder, averaging eight rebounds per game, but most of those come on the defensive end.

The most offensive boards he has recorded this season was seven. His totals for the year show the discrepancy, as he has 34 offensive rebounds to 94 defensive rebounds.

Miles' average is down from last year by 0.1 rebounds per game, and he has 28 offensive rebounds to 49 defensive rebounds.

The lack of second chance opportunities is made even more apparent if Duke has an off-shooting night like it did against Florida State.

Statistically, Mason has improved in every category, though his offensive output is not what many have hoped for. Many saw Mason as more of a potential offensive weapon, and at times this season he has shown it, but not consistently.

He has scored 10 or more points only five times this season and scored five or fewer points in eight games.

The same people who had high hopes for Mason saw Miles taking a step forward offensively, but like his brother, the decision making process and ability to finish has been a problem.

Neither have to score double figures night in and night out for Duke to win, but they have to at least present a threat to score, and they aren't doing it.

Mason was beginning to flourish with Kyrie Irving at the point. The high pick and roll was becoming an almost instant offensive play for Duke, but when Irving went down that play and option went with him.

Miles has shown the ability to throw down some monster dunks one-on-one or by himself, but in traffic he is too passive around the basket and doesn't fight for good position on the low block.

Both settle for jump shots or fallaway shots when they need to go hard at the basket and get shots on the rim while drawing contact. Neither shoots free throws well, but they should be shooting them more.

On the defensive end, both are athletic enough to hedge out aggressively, but then they commit silly fouls and are occasionally late on help defense.

This may be why Miles is sitting more lately. When Mason sits, it has recently been because he is in foul trouble, having fouled out in the last two games.

There is no easy solution. They both have to just get better, and the switch has to be turned to the on position and stay there.

Instead we see flashes of the light before darkness returns.

Neither has to be Elton Brand or Shelden Williams, but they have to start providing good minutes consistently for Duke to have a better shot at a deep run this season.

The Blue Devils have shown, as they did last year, that they can win without a low post scorer, but they can't win without some positive contributions from their bigs on the glass and the defensive end.

Perhaps the two will figure it out like Zoubek did last season. If not, Duke is doomed to listen to the criticism of having no inside game for as long as its season lasts.