It is difficult with such a small sample size (1 game) to say that Duke hast to get better in any particular areas, but there were some things in the Blue Devils’s victory over Georgia State that absolutely have to get better and quickly.
Granted with only one game to look at it is difficult to say whether the issues the Blue Devils had are just an aberration or a possible trend.
If you look at the stat sheet and the game as a whole there are three areas that in my opinion have to get better and it starts with rebounding. Duke was out rebounded by Georgia State 33 to 31. When you look at the shooting percentage though you might be inclined to say well Duke shot 51 percent from the floor while the Panthers only shot 37 percent. So in that regard Georgia State had more opportunities for rebounds.
But Georgia State scored more points in the paint against a much taller team in Duke. they nearly had as many second chance points (7 to 8) and just as many fast break points.
Rebounding give you second chance points and fast break opportunities and Duke just didn’t take advantage of their size in my opinion to make the numbers that should have clearly favored them.
You don’t like to lose the rebounding battle, especially against a smaller team and if you look at the two exhibition games the rebounding margin was incredibly close against teams that didn’t have really anybody to match up with Duke’s front court. Winston Salem State for example didn’t have a single player taller than 6-foot-6 and they only had two fewer rebounds than Duke.
Against Georgia State, the Panthers’ tallest player was only 6-foot-10 and he wasn’t even the leading rebounder; 6-foot-5 RJ Hunter was with 10.
That is six more rebounds than the second highest Duke rebounder (two with four apiece). The Blue Devils can’t give smaller teams additional opportunties to score and they especially can’t do that against better teams.
Another area that has got to be a concern is the play of the point guards. Duke in a bit of a surprise started junior Tyler Thornton over sophomore Quinn Cook. Most had expected Cook to get the nod but Mike Krzyzewski went with Thornton, and while he did score 13 points he had four turnovers to only three assists.
Cook didn’t fare that much better playing only 21 minutes, scoring 8 points and turning the ball over twice and only getting two assits. When your point guards have a combined assist to turnover ratio of 5-6, that isn’t good. And as a team Duke had only two more assists than turnovers (17-15).
That has to improve and the point guards have to be able to take better care of the basketball. Duke saw what it was like to have a season with no real established point guard last year and a repeat will not be good for the Blue Devils’ prospects in 2012-2013. Those guys have to set up the offense and get the best players in a position to score.
And that brings me to the final area that Duke has to get better at. They have to do a better job of setting up their best player Mason Plumlee in a position to be the most effective. It is hard to find too much fault with Plumlee’s performance against Georgia State, or at all in the preseason. He essentially has posted a double-double in every game he has played in.
Still Plumlee, at least early on against Georgia State, was not getting the touches in a position to be successful. Plumlee would get the ball way to far from the basket and would either be forced to pass the ball out or have to make a move. And while Plumlee is certainly a versatile player who is maneuverable he isn’t a guy you want putting the ball on the floor 10 or 15 feet away from the basket.
But that really isn’t Plumlee’s fault. The guards and his teammates have to realize that his strength is to catch the ball in the post near the basket in a position to make a quick move. If he has to think about it too much then that is when the problems start.
Plumlee’s strength is to catch and go either way with the hook shot, or catch and dunk or take one power dribble and dunk. He can take contact and he can finish over guys, but he still isn’t a guy you want taking fade away jumpers.
When Kyrie Irving was at Duke, he realized this and Duke took advantage of it. Irving isn’t coming through the door so it is up to Thornton or Cook to be able to put Plumlee in a position to not just finish a game with 19 points but dominate it with 25 or 30 and that can be done with just some better decision making.
Again, obviously this is a small sample size and first game jitters could have played a factor in the Blue Devils overall performance. They did manage to win by a comfortable margin, still, no one who objectively watched the game can say that Duke dominated it, and they really should have.
If they can sure up and figure some things out this should be a good team, but if these issues linger, we could see Duke struggle at times this year beyond the beginning of the season.
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