Duke vs. Ohio State: Why Mason Plumlee Should Be Wary of Jared Sullinger

Ro ShiellAnalyst INovember 28, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils drives the ball against Draymond Green #23 of the Michigan State Spartans during the 2011 State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Mason Plumlee had a great game last Wednesday against Kansas and their star forward, Thomas Robinson. He scored 17 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked two shots in the Duke win.

Robinson made a decent showing with 16 points and 15 rebounds but went quiet after Plumlee blocked his shot in the closing moments of the game.

Basketball is a team sport, but sometimes it is all about the matchup. Duke’s Tuesday game against Ohio State will see Plumlee facing off with Jared Sullinger.

Mason Plumlee is more of a defensive player, whereas Sullinger excels at the offensive end of the court.

This will be one of the best games of the early college basketball season, at least on paper. Duke is ranked No. 6 and is undefeated.

Ohio State has also won six straight games without any loses.

Plumlee should not concern himself with Jared Sullinger too much. This game cannot be him against Sullinger, as he could easily lose sight of what’s in store (Duke winning) just like Shelden Williams did in a similar situation.

According to ESPN The Magazine, Williams saw a potential matchup with UConn’s Emeka Okafor as a ticket to the NBA but it was not to be.

"But how long would Shelden stay at Duke? The next season, he and his teammates made it to the national semifinal against UConn, and Shelden thought he might turn pro if he dominated Emeka Okafor. Imagine, no more trips to College Park!

"But he flopped that day, going one-for-nine in only 19 minutes. He fouled out with five minutes to go and watched helplessly as Duke blew a late lead. On the bus, no one dared to approach him, except, of course, Melchionni, who plopped down next to him and said, 'You didn't play so great, man.' When Mr. Tact asked if he'd gotten caught up in the matchup with Okafor, Shelden admitted, 'Probably so."'

Duke had needed Williams’s shot blocking and rebounding ability that day, but he was on the bench when Okafor made the go-ahead basket to win the game.

UConn would go on to win the national championship.

Just like they needed Williams in 2004, Duke will need Mason Plumlee on the court tomorrow when they face Ohio State in the Big Ten/ACC showdown.

However, Plumlee cannot get caught up in his NBA aspirations. Jared Sullinger is one of the top players in college basketball and is widely considered a lottery pick next summer. Mason may improve his own draft stock with a good game against Ohio State.

But this cannot be his main focus. Duke needs Mason on the court for his rebounding ability (Sullinger also rebounds at a high rate) and shot-altering ability. He can't pick up silly fouls by trying to be someone he is not.

On ESPN’s halftime show last night, Doug Gottlieb reckoned Duke may need to utilize every foul with Miles Plumlee (Mason’s older brother) to slow down Sullinger.

Gottlieb also noted that Sullinger’s weakness is playing against longer, taller players. That’s Plumlee music right there. Mason is 6’10” and so is his brother.

Kelly is listed at 6’11” but is better as a help defender.

Which means Miles may defend Ohio State’s 6’9” bruiser to start the game, but down the stretch Mason will be the primary defender.

Just like how Duke played Thomas Robinson.

This Duke team has come a long way after scraping their way to seven victories, but the season is still young.

"I think if we could beat Ohio State, that would take our confidence to a whole different level," Austin Rivers said. "It would be huge."