From the Stands: Blue-White Game

TDD reviews the annual preseason scrimmage and offers opinions on what we all learned

It's hard to figure the importance of an inter-squad scrimmage in which one starter wasn't able to play and, perhaps the key post reserve was also absent. Still, Friday night's Countdown to Craziness and Blue-White scrimmage left a familiar sense of optimism for Blue Devil fans.

There were a number of questions answered in the scrimmage including which players will likely open the season in the starting lineup, and just how the additions on the wing would impact the style of play. Not only do four of the five starters appear etched in stone, it appears as though if Seth Curry's absence will default freshman Rasheed Sulaimon into the lineup when Duke opens the preseason in eight days.

Here are four take-aways from the first game action (sort of) of the year:

1. The team changes speed dramatically depending on the point guard.
A season after he was slowed with a knee injury for the entire year, Cook appears to finally be healthy and provides a much improved tempo for Duke when running the show. In the first game Cook consistently moved his team down the floor, and allows Mason Plumlee to play to his strengths and will allow Duke to get out in transition. When the White team switched to Thornton in the second game, the team's slowed to more of a half court style. With the perimeter shooting (more below) not on, the White team had a lot of trouble scoring.

Cook has taken the reigns as the starter, but Thornton will earn his time on the defensive end of the floor. On the night Cook finished with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting with four assists and three turnovers. Thornton didn't attempt a shot all night, but managed five assists against five turnovers and one steal.

2. This team isn't your traditional Duke from the perimeter.
A hallmark of the Blue Devil program has been the ability to hit from the perimeter, igniting big runs and quick bursts of scoring. If Friday is to be any indication, this year's squad isn't going to be as perimeter oriented. On a night when Seth Curry was out of action, Duke managed just 20 percent from the perimeter including 0-of-6 from Ryan Kelly. Alex Murphy managed just 1-of-4. Those shots are going to have to fall to allow Plumlee room to operate.

Right now the best three point options appear to be Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon. Kelly, of course, should be a safe bet to shoot better than 35 percent this season as well.

3. Rodney Hood is going to make an instant impact.
But that impact won't be seen on the court for another year. On Friday Hood proved to be exactly the kind of player Duke has lacked on the perimeter for quite some time. At 6-foot-8, the Mississippi State transfer has a very smooth game and is able to get to the rim with relative ease. He's also showed off the midrange game in practices - employing a number of floaters and pull up jumpers.

Hood played the entire game on Friday night for the Blue team, but in a year it's likely he'll be kicking in the door for the starting lineup as Duke moves to a very heavy emphasis on utilizing the wings with Hood, Murphy, and Semi Ojeleye. That'll only be amplified if Duke can add the nation's top recruit, 6'8 Jabari Parker, to the recruiting class of 2013. This year the best way to measure Hood's impact will be the improvement of freshman small forward Alex Murphy. And speaking of Murphy…

4. Alex Murphy is exactly the kind of player Duke missed last year.
At 6'8 and with a year in the weight room under his belt, Murphy brings an added element to the starting lineup with both length and athleticism contributing. While Murphy may look a lot like Kyle Singler, the departed National Champion seemed to have a more consistent perimeter shot at the same stage, but Murphy appears to be a better rebounder and slasher.

During the 20 minute game, Murphy hit three of seven from the field (including just 1-of-4 from the perimeter) and finished with nine points. It was on the glass where Murphy's biggest contribution was felt as he rebounded to the tune of a team best eight boards, and added three blocks. IF his perimeter shot starts falling (he seemed rushed on his first couple of attempts), his stock will continue to rise fast. If he struggles, it appears he'll still earn a lot of minutes as a player who can really help his team with rebounding, defense, and toughness -- especially if Kelly is going to be called upon to extend the defense and force opposing power forwards to chase him to the perimeter. When that happens, it'll leave Mason Plumlee and Murphy free to hit the boards. Which is probably better than a season ago when Duke relied on either Austin Rivers (6'4) and Andre Dawkins (6'4) to do that.


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