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Cats Club Duke 74-63

It may not seem like it now, but Kentucky did Duke a favor by schooling the young Devils.

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Nov 17, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee (40) grabs a rebound against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half at United Center.
Nov 17, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee (40) grabs a rebound against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half at United Center.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

What you saw Tuesday night was a young Duke team get a reality check.

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Siena and Bryant are better teams than many realize, and both are well coached, but there is a world of difference between those two teams and Kentucky.

Like Duke, Kentucky has a bunch of new players and four returnees. Kentucky also has an outstanding point guard in Tyler Ulis and some outstanding forwards in Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Derek Willis. And then there's freshmen Skal Labissierie and Jamal Murray, who is pretty advanced for a freshman.

By contrast, while Duke got superb games from Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, Grayson Allen was flummoxed on offense and the freshmen simply appeared overwhelmed.

For Allen, who was so good in the first two games, he learned (we hope) that you can't necessarily drive into the teeth of a talented defense, at least not without a Plan B. Allen can really get off the ground; so can several of Kentucky's players. He never adjusted to Kentucky's length and that's too bad because he's a terrific outside shot.

For Brandon Ingram, it's probably about being assertive and smart. He was as talented as anyone on the floor, but he let himself get suckered into foul trouble. He shot 1-6, had four points, four turnovers one rebound and one block. He played like a freshman who wasn't quite sure that he belonged, but he does. Ingram needs confidence, strength and experience. That's about it. He'll be terrific and very soon.

The other three freshmen who played contributed nine points.

Still, at least offensively, Plumlee and Jefferson, supported by Jones, gave Duke a good enough base to win. If anyone - Allen, Luke Kennard, Derryck Thornton or Chase Jeter - had been reasonably productive offensively, Duke might have won.

Well, that supposes that the Blue Devils could have handled the ball better. But it doesn't factor in defense or keeping Kentucky off the boards.

The defense has a long ways to go, collectively and individually. The veterans were all pretty solid, but at times the freshmen looked lost.

The good news though is that freshmen almost always get better, and Coach K is a past master of using failure to create future success.

Lessons will be learned and applied, and Duke will profit from this loss. That won't make losing to Kentucky feel better right now but it will soon.

Through two exhibitions and three games, Duke has been uneven but certainly filled with potential. No one expected to see Plumlee play at the level he reached against Kentucky. If he can stay out of foul trouble as he has so far and continue to play with such ferocity, the other players will eventually catch up (Jefferson and Jones already have).

In short, despite the loss, the future is very bright and it's not too far away.