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Duke-Kentucky Thoughts: Devils May Improve Sharply Soon

Kentucky fans are saying just wait. But you haven’t seen the real Duke yet either.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Duke
 Nov 9, 2021; New York, New York, USA;Duke Blue Devils guard Trevor Keels (1) celebrates with forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Madison Square Garden. 
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Duke had a nice debut in the Garden last night - very nice indeed, full of promise.

But the really exciting thing is that Duke was a long way from fulfilling its potential.

We saw great play from Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels, who, honestly, were off the charts. Wendell Moore, too, was a different kind of player than we’ve seen before. Jeremy Roach showed signs of doing thing we never could have imagined last year, like getting seven rebounds. That was pretty remarkable.

But it wasn’t a perfect outing.

As we feared, Mark Williams got a serious challenge from Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe and in fact, the much more powerful Theo John got more minutes. So we could/should see very different outings from Williams soon. Tshiebwe presents some unique challenges and Williams is still a few years from physical maturation. That’s not his fault; it can’t be easy to have his body type as a late teenager.

What’s going to change though is when Griffin is fully reintegrated. Remember he was seen as a starter when he hurt his knee. Tuesday night he played just 10:36.

We could see him starting but who would sit?

But here’s what we expect.

Griffin, who on TV bears a real resemblance to Phil Ford when he was at UNC, can be a brilliant sixth man for this team. He could come in for anyone other than Williams which gives Duke flexibility somewhat like it had in 1999-2000 when Coach K had, essentially, a six-man rotation.

But it worked perfectly because Mike Dunleavy could come in for anyone of four players and no one really had to play more than four minutes before getting a blow. It was brilliant team management.

So imagine, if you will, Griffin being used essentially like a queen in chess. He may not start, but he’s going to get starter minutes because he can fill in for whatever Duke needs. We haven’t begun to see what he can do and he may be the best athlete on the team.

Add him and a more effective Williams to what we saw last night and three point shooting - because 1-13 at Duke is a real anomaly - and this team is going to be a load.