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Next Up For Duke Basketball - VCU

Time: 7:30 || Venue: Madison Square Garden || TV: ESPN2

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Marshall Plumlee was a revelation against Kentucky.
Marshall Plumlee was a revelation against Kentucky.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After Kentucky exposed several of Duke's weaknesses, the Blue Devils are off to New York for the final weekend of the 2K Classic.

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The Blue Devils will open with VCU, where Shaka Smart did a remarkable job before leaving for Texas last spring.

His replacement is former assistant Will Wade who came over from UT-Chattanooga, and who promises to continue Havoc, saying that Smart's defense had become VCU's brand.

So far this season, VCU is 2-0, with wins over Prairie View A&M and Radford, both easy wins.

And while it's a small sample size, Wade is so far continuing Smart's liberal substitution. VCU's rotation is 9-10 deep.

JeQuan Lewis, Melvin Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, Kory Billbury and Jordan Burgess are getting starter minutes with Doug Brooks and Justin Tillman not far behind.

Will told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that "I look at [this game] as a great opportunity for our guys ... to step out on a national stage and be accounted for and let folks know who they are, let folks know we’re still VCU. We’re not going anywhere."

So far, Johnsons is VCU's offensive leader: the 6-4 native of the Bronx is averaging 18.5 ppg. Billbury, a grad student transfer from Oral Roberts, is putting up 11 ppg, Lewis 10.5, Doug Brooks 9, Jordan Burgess 8.5 and Cox 7.5.

Our criticism of Smart's Havoc defense has always been that there was never a Plan B. If you got past it, there was not really a Plan B. We'll be curious to see what wrinkles Wade brings. And Wade is no stranger to Duke basketball.

He was a student manager at Clemson and later an assistant to Oliver Purnell. He was also an assistant to Tommy Amaker. Amaker is certainly not a K Klone but he has incorporated elements of Duke's system.

At Chattanooga, he finished his first year 18-15 and his second 22-10.

As we mentioned, Kentucky did Duke a favor by exploiting a number of weaknesses.

Although Marshall Plumlee had a stunning first half and Amile Jefferson had a sensational night on the boards, as Winston Churchill might have said, Duke lacked a theme.

In particular, the backcourt, Matt Jones aside, did not do well. Grayson Allen tried to force his offense, Luke Kennard was ineffective, Derryck Thornton made some foolish gambles, and Brandon Ingram did not fully tap into his massive potential.

As Coach K has often said, Duke has three systems - offense, defense and communication. Offense will take some time to develop, but the other two can get better quickly, and should.

Work on communication started Wednesday (perhaps earlier) with film review.

Don't be surprised if the lineup is juggled, but whatever happens, we expect Duke will play with more intelligence than we saw against Kentucky.