Sunday afternoon Duke gets Penn and while there is a history of basketball excellence at the Big Five school, it's been somewhat misplaced lately.
Over the last several years, Penn's won 13, 10, 6, and 13 games.Â So far this season, they're 6-7.
Former Penn great Jerome Allen took over in 2010 and has done a respectable job rebuilding the Big Five stalwart although to be sure, there's still a long way to go.
Like most teams, Penn lacks Duke's size.Â They do have Keelan Cairns, a 6-10 freshman from Ireland, and Mike Howlett, a 6-9 senior from Massachusetts, but it falls off after that.Â They'll have a significant challenge with the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly.
Cairns barely plays and Howlett is well down in the rotation, so basically Duke has, again, a major size advantage.
Zach Rosen (6-1)is a very good point guard who is averaging 19.7 ppg, 3.9 ppg, and 6.4 apg. Tyler Bernardini (6-6) kicks in with 15.7 ppg and 5.9 rpg.
That's a reasonable three guard attack but Penn's options thin out after that, although there is a familiar name on the roster: soph Marin Kukoc, son of former Bulls star and Scottie Pippen whipping boy Toni Kukoc. He's starting to get some minutes but isn't having a huge impact yet.
As for us, we'll be very interested in watching Quinn Cook.Â Over the last couple of games he's really come on.Â As you know, he had a serious knee injury last season which limited him up until the China trip.Â It seems to have had an impact on his lateral movement, but he's getting better quickly and is doing things as a point guard that Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton cannot do, namely to get in the lane and create chaos and unpredictability and also to find people where they like to be found.Â That's a gift for any point guard, not to mention his teammates.
We wouldn't go so far as to say he's on Kyrie Irving's level, but we really, really like his instincts.Â If his defense continues to improve, it wouldn't shock us in the slightest to see him starting at some point soon.
Aside from a keen passing eye and leadership qualities, Cook is an outstanding ballhandler and moves very well in the open court. We don't mean just end-to-end; he is really good at juking people and has a particular knack for losing people on a nifty spin move.Â He's growing by leaps and bounds.
We've jokingly maintained a Plumlee Daily Double, totaling the contributions of Mason and Miles and counting it as one big man's game.
We should also consider something like an Austin Rivers Error Reduction Matrix.Â If you'll recall, while in China, Rivers was frequently out of control as he adapted to the college game. That's essentially over: on relatively rare occasions, he makes up his mind early and charges in, but that's very rare now indeed.Â He's more likely to take an undesirable thee than he is to rush the lane, and he's not doing that as much either (and by the way, he's also improving as a three point shooter).
He still has an arrogance to his game, but now it's a positive arrogance.Â The guy has pretty much figured out where he is and how to fit his game in.
Also, look for Mason Plumlee to have a better game. He was definitely subpar against Western Michigan and he'll be ready for redemption.
There are a lot of reasons for optimism for Duke right now, but that didn't stop Coach K from getting irritated with sloppy play Friday. Expect intensity to be a focus Sunday, and expect the Devils to try their best to maintain it for 40 minutes.
That's good news for Duke and Duke fans but likely bad news for Penn.
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