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Jim Sumner On Duke-Shaw

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Exhibition games serve a lot of purposes. But the most important is finding out about your team in a non-competitive situation. Of course, few things about Duke basketball are non-competitive, certainly not games with another bunch of guys wearing jerseys with different names on them.

But there was a lot of getting-to-know-you in Duke's scrimmage wins over Bellarmine (87-62) and Shaw (80-66). There's a lot being made in both the local and national media about the loss of Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving. These are not negligible losses. A Final Four Most Outstanding Player, an ACC Player of the Year and the first pick in an NBA draft. Not a lot of precedents for that.

But Mike Krzyzewski has been down this road before; 1987, following the loss of Johnny Dawkins, Mark Alarie and David Henderson; 2000, following the loss of Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, William Avery and Corey Maggette, the Williams-Dunleavy-Boozer class, the Redick-Williams-Dockery class.

Somehow Duke seems to reload rather than rebuild. Talent has a lot to do with it. Duke has recruited at least one prep All-American every class since Dawkins and Alarie came in the fall of 1982.

But there's more to it than that. Clemson coach Brad Brownell was asked about this last month in Charlotte. His response was almost zen-like. When it's someone's time at Duke, they're ready. When it's Ryan Kelly's time, he's ready. When it's Seth Curry's time, he's ready."

You get the drift.

So, whose time is it? What do we know about Duke that we didn't know two weeks ago?

Depends on whether you've been paying attention. There's been lots of talk on the Duke boards about Duke's starting lineup, emphasis on the singular. But I suspect we'll see a much more fluid dynamic this season, with players moving in and out of the lineup, up and down in the rotation, depending on a lot of variables. Playing-time-is-earned-not-given is coaching-cliche 101. But in Duke's case, it's a cliche supported by three decades of meritocracy. It really does work that way at Duke.

And it's not necessarily a bad thing. Nine different players started during Duke's 1991 season, as Krzyzewski replaced three senior starters from the season before. We all know how that turned out.

None of this is to suggest that we should expect a well-oiled machine at this point in the season and we certainly haven't seen one. Freshman Alex Murphy started against Bellarmine and was the 11th player off the bench against Shaw. Andre Dawkins came off the bench against Shaw, made four-of-five three pointers in the first half, got the starting nod in the second half and promptly went scoreless. We've seen lineups with all three point guards, we've seen lineups with only one guard and pretty much everything in between. Think master chef tinkering in the kitchen.

Duke's opponents didn't exactly roll over. Bellarmine won the D-2 national championship last season, while Shaw captured the CIAA Tournament. Both are experienced, tournament-tested teams. Both made Duke look vulnerable at times, confused and tentative.

At this point, Mike Krzyzewski seems more interested in process than results. He stated that he thought Duke played better than the score against Shaw. "We got the ball inside and got to the line. We left a lot of points on the floor. We've got to complete plays. We played fine. We have to be more efficient."

Getting to the foul line was an adventure. Duke shot an abysmal 11-24 from the line. Krzyzewski says he isn't concerned. "I don't make too much of it. First, you've got to get to the line. I have confidence we'll shoot it well."

Note that Duke was a solid 17-23 from the line against Bellarmine.

There certainly were some positives in the two wins. Duke seems serious about using its size. Duke's bigs scored 42 points against Bellarmine, 41 against Shaw, 83 of the 167 total points.

And that was with Miles Plumlee struggling against Shaw, shooting only 4-10.

"I was pretty frustrated," Plumlee said. "I had a few opportunities to make things go my way and I made weak plays instead of strong plays. You only get so many opportunities in a game to start a rhythm."

But brother Mason went 6-6 from the field, including a trio of sweet jump hooks. Krzyzewski says he expects more of the same. "Our guys are passing the ball to the bigs and we have good stuff called for the bigs. It's got to be a strength of ours."

Freshman Austin Rivers came in for special praise from Krzyzewski, but not just for his offense. "He did a good job on [Tony] Smith. He took what was there [on offense] and used his defense for energy."

Krzyzewski acknowledged that it took Duke some time to figure out Shaw. Duke led only 34-29 with 7:30 left in the first half. "They have a pair of guards who are really good. They're older and experienced and can really handle the ball. We started keeping people in front of us. We stepped in more aggressively. Our defense the last 24 minutes was very good."

Krzyzewski has stated on numerous occasions that this Duke team can score the ball but needs to prove it can stop the other team. Tyler Thornton got a start against Shaw for just that reason. 'Seth has to be our point guard. We started Tyler for defense not ball handling. Seth is going to have the ball in his hands."

Curry had 30 points and ten assists in the two games.

Thornton and freshman Quinn Cook combined for zero points in 29 combined minutes, although they did contribute four assists, three by Cook. Cook had five assists against Bellarmine, eight total assists in 24 minutes. But his defense is nowhere near that of Thornton and Duke needs that defense right now.

Duke also struggled from long range. Excluding Dawkins' first half against Shaw, Duke is 5-30 on three-pointers in the two exhibition games.

Ryan Kelly didn't start either game but played 23 effective minutes off the bench in both, totaling 25 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block and 3 steals. Kelly says things are coming along. "We're figuring out what we're supposed to do. It's getting better every day. It got better today from where we were in the exhibition game Saturday. It's steps forward and that's all we can ask."


  • Mason Plumlee completed the exhibition season 14-14 from the field, with 30 points, 17 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
  • Mike Krzyzewski said no decision had been made on Marshall Plumlee, indicating that the youngest Plumlee brother wouldn't play much this season. He might not play unless there is a significant injury in the post rotation.
  • Duke never trailed against Shaw and faced only a 2-0 deficit against Bellarmine.
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