Austin Rivers has shown he's capable of brilliance, but if Duke makes any noise, it'll be created by Miles and Mason Plumlee.
Rivers is the team's best player, but when Duke falls short, they have become too dependent on the perimeter game. In these situations, the bigs—namely the Plumlee brothers—aren't a big enough factor.
Miles and Mason average about 18 points and 16 rebounds per game combined this season, but Duke needs them to be bigger than that.
Duke lives and dies with the three point shot. In Duke's six losses this season, they have shot 31 percent from deep, but they are 38 percent overall. When they struggle from deep, they need to have the option to go inside for buckets, and that falls on the Plumlee brothers.
In the losses, the Plumlees have not elevated their games enough. They average 21 and 16 in the losses, and the Blue Devils are forced to sink amongst a pool of missed jump shots.
Part of this is philosophy. Duke has always used the three extensively, but the better Duke teams had a balance. Past champions had inside presences like Carlos Boozer and Christian Laettner. The Plumlees must step up if Duke is to avoid another upset in the NCAA tournament.
It is unrealistic to think that the shooters—Rivers, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins—will be hot for six games in a row.
What will Duke do when they have their routine sub-30-percent night from distance?
If the Plumlee brothers don't produce a 32-point, 20-rebound performance to compensate, the team will be wide open for another fall off.
On the defensive end, their presence is needed even more.
It primarily comes in the form of defensive rebounding. In Duke's six losses they have given up an average of 11.3 offensive rebounds per game. They have been beaten in this category in all but one of their losses.
Poor outside shooting, lack of a dominant inside presence and losing the battle on the glass is a formula for defeat.
The Plumlee brothers are the foremost members of this Duke team that can effect these aspects of the game. If they can limit teams to one shot, and become more of a presence inside on offense, Duke can reach the Final Four.
If they can't, they could be ousted before the Sweet 16.
They are the keys to Duke's success.