Duke Blue Devils: Can the Current Roster Be Considered Unathletic?

Ro ShiellAnalyst INovember 30, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 29: Lenzelle Smith Jr. #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes defends against Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils during first half action at Value City Arena on November 29, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Last night’s game against Ohio State had a déjà vu feeling about it. It reminded me of the St. Johns game last season where a not entirely different Blue Devil team suffered a similar embarrassing loss.

Duke caught a right hand square to the jaw in the first half that they never recovered from in both games.

There will be a lot of reasons given why Duke lost but credit needs to be given to the Buckeyes who executed their offense with precision and a little luck. The ball just seemed to find Ohio State players even when they turned it over!

But one reason I heard Dick Vitale clumsily glossed over during the game and Myron Medcalf reproduced today was regarding Duke’s athleticism:

Duke’s limited athleticism could be its biggest challenge in March

This may be treated as a throwaway comment but is it justified? In the past, Duke has been described as unathletic but surely not now.

The Plumlee brothers (Miles and Mason) have shown that they are just about as athletic as anyone with their numerous emphatic dunks. Austin Rivers probably needs a little more upper body strength but he has been applauded for his quick first step.

Andre Dawkins can leap with anyone and so can Michael Gbinije.The only player who may appear to be unathletic is Ryan Kelly, but his basketball IQ and shooting ability normally makes up for this.

Last night when Duke went to a zone defense Ohio State quickly shot them out of it by moving the ball around. Duke struggled to close out on the perimeter properly and Ryan Kelly was eventually benched. No official reason has been given yet, but his man DeShaun Thomas went off for 18 points, most of them uncontested.

When Josh Hairston entered the game, Thomas went silent.

By that time the game had already been won. Duke just could not get a stop nor hit a trademark three-point shot.

It should be noted that of the 15 shots taken, five were missed by Quinn Cook and Thornton not the usual shooters for Duke. Dawkins and Ryan Kelly did not get a three-point shot off so Ohio State must have really done their homework. At least Curry tried (1-6) and Rivers was the only one to hit half his shots (2-4).

Hairston and Gbinije showed that they may be able to handle some more playing time in last night's game.

On every great Duke team there has always been a great one-on-one defender. Thornton has carried that mantle so far this season, but Gbinije could be useful going forward.

With his length, he could be effective against players like Harrison Barnes in the ACC.