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Good News From The Delaware Game

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Last year, Duke was often inconsistent, even within a game, playing great occasionally and then stumbling or taking their foot off a team's neck in the second half.

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This year, so far, things are very different, and they certainly gave Delaware no room to breathe.

But the best thing, to us, anyway, was the bench play.

Start with Tyler Thornton. Although in light of Seth Curry's ankle, he started, his role this year is off the bench.

Still, the guy had 10 assists. Yes, it's Delaware, but that's pretty impressive. He also had six boards.

Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson, getting extended minutes, made the most of them. Jefferson had 12 points and seven boards, while Murphy finished with 10 and seven.

And an obvious boost in confidence.

No one talks to us about this stuff, so it's not like we get a call from Wojo or anything. It's our own ideas and insights. So take it for what it's worth, but here's what we're wondering: have Murphy's struggles been because of anxiety? And did Delaware represent a breakthrough?

Could be.

Murphy, generally regarded as a talented player (Rodney Hood said "...Murph, no offense, but I’ve never had to guard a white boy that has been that athletic"), has been erratic prior to Delaware. And he may be again.

But it was interesting that once he hit a shot, the game seemed to come to him in a very different way. He suddenly started driving, grabbing rebounds, and had one massive snuff on a Delaware fast break that looked more like Mason Plumlee.

It was a superb performance.

Jefferson's was also excellent. A rail thin 6-8 - every other frontcourt player outweighs him by at least 25 pounds, and Ryan Kelly has him by 35 while the Plumlees each outweigh him by 40 pounds - his talent is evident even though his weight is a problem.

But it's not like he's intimidated. Against Delaware, he hit the floor more often than Marvis Frazier.

He has a knack for getting to the basket and a talent for finding the ball in the lane. He'll be fine as soon as he bulks up and possibly sooner.

When you consider the pair of them with Rodney Hood who some are whispering is already Duke's best player, that's a potentially scary trio.

But here's something else to consider.

Quinn Cook had six assists in this game after showing recently that he plays very well under pressure.

But Rasheed Sulaimon surprised us a bit as well, with a bigger focus on passing than we've seen to date.

He finished with six himself but could easily have had 10: he had several sharp passes dropped or bobbled by the recipients.

So had things gone more his way, Duke's guards could have easily finished with 10, 10 and six assists.

In fact, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see all three finish with double digit assists. We're not sure that's ever happened at Duke and probably not many other places, if any.

Toss in solid passing skills by Mason Plumlee and Kelly and you have a team which, potentially, could reach the high water mark represented by the Duke Power team of 1978, which not only passed brilliantly but did so without the three point shot relieving lane congestion.

Speaking of that team, Gene Banks was in the house Saturday, and so was his phone: one of the first networks to show up in Cameron was "Gene Banks iPhone."

Go figure.

Back to Sulaimon.

We've gotten used to his precocity by now, but he's played fairly conservatively against a high level of competition. Delaware afforded him the chance to try some new stuff, and we saw more quickness, more daring and a willingness to drive and to make lightning quick passes than we've seen to date.

He's pretty much a complete player already, but there are more layers to the onion than we've really seen. Stay tuned.

Finally, with both the elder Plumlee and Kelly having gotten into foul trouble at times already, there's a clear need for another big man.

If his original schedule is still valid, Marshall Plumlee should be just about ready to get on the court. We saw one article earlier which described the coaches as being extremely happy with his progress. When we watched him on the bench Saturday, we were struck at just how much bigger he is now: he's not that far off from his brothers. Miles is the most powerful, but Mason is very, very solid as well. Marshall is not far from either physically. He looks like a rough tough cream puff (apologies to R. Crumb for the theft).

Of the three, he's clearly the most happy-go-lucky and possibly the least likely to overanalyze. Anxiety may have limited Murphy (as we said, we're only speculating here); it's not likely to be a problem for MP3.

By the way, have you ever stopped to consider the food budget for the teen-age Plumlees (or the Zellers for that matter although Luke, Tyler and Cody are not quite as close together as the Plumlees)? The cost of milk alone?

They probably went through 2-3 gallons a day. Add it up - loaves of bread, buckets of vegetables, a freezer full of meat each month - and the food bill is probably four times what the average family pays.

Staggering when you think about it. Three normal sized teenage boys can be a pack of wolves in the kitchen; three near 7-0 could be disastrous for a budget.