1. The new NCAA rules will slow early games
The primary culprit is the new "no hand-check" rule which appeared to be more aptly considered the "no touching rule". Certainly a team with Duke's overall depth will be able to counter the sheer volume of fouls generated, but the game itself slows down considerably. That was the case on Saturday as the Blue Devils were called for 20 fouls while Bowie State was called for 33. That's 53 whistles in 40 minutes. Certainly the players and coaches will adjust as the season progresses, but even with Duke scoring a ton of points…parts of this game were sluggish courtesy of the new rules.
2. Duke has depth. And K's going to use it.
The knock on Duke has always been that the rotation can be painfully short at times. However, history has shown that when Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski has enough players capable of contributing meaningful minutes, he'll play them. It happened in 1998, and it seems to be happening now. Certainly one exhibition game means precious little in the grand scheme of the season. After all, Duke could have played the two walk-ons and the bottom handful of the rotation and probably would have won this one comfortably. Still, at the end of the game, 11 players logged double figure minutes, with Andre Dawkins logging another nine. The starting five of Rodney Hood, Amile Jefferson, Jabari Parker, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Quinn Cook averaged just 21 minutes between them, with Hood logging a team high 28. Not only did Coach K have seven players enter the game and log extended minutes, it was the production provided by those reserves. Duke got 42 points, 21 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 steals, and two blocks from the bench. By contrast, Duke averaged just over 7 points per game from the bench a season ago.
3. Marshall Plumlee seems more capable of contributing
Duke has the offensive firepower. There's size on the wing. Experience in the backcourt. Athleticism throughout the roster. What there may or may not be is traditional post play. A season ago the Blue Devil interior dominated the team's approach, and several opponents. This season, however, the post game may be the biggest question mark facing the team's development. Prior to last season, Coach K told the media that before suffering a foot injury that would rob him of half the season, Marshall Plumlee was likely going to be the team's sixth man. That claim seemed a bit dubious when Plumlee returned to action and scored just 2 points in 19 appearances (three less than walk-on Todd Zafirovski). In the end, Duke didn't need Plumlee a season ago. That's not the case this year, and through one exhibition game, it appears as though the Blue Devils will be able to count on the 7-footer for some quality minutes in the paint. Again, the level of competition has to be considered (Bowie State's tallest player was just 6'8), but Plumlee looked confident, assertive, and controlled. He blocked and bothered a handful of shots, showed off a baby jump hook, hit the boards, and converted 83 percent of his free throws. If the youngest Plumlee is able to provide relief off the bench for 10-15 minutes a night, this Duke team becomes that much more complete.
4. The two best players are so far above everyone else
Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood were both fantastic in their own ways. Both showed the versatility that will give teams fits this year. Parker was the flashier of the two players, combining skill and power to produce a number of highlights in just 24 minutes of action. Parker finished with 16 points, four rebounds, five assists, three blocks, and four steals. In 24 minutes.
"Jabari is a special player and the more he plays the better he is going to be," K told the media. "He is still learning. He has a huge up side even though he is really good right now."
Meanwhile, Hood's game isn't about flash, but efficiency. The captain played the most minutes of anyone on the floor, lead the team in scoring (19), rebounds (8), and added four assists and a block. While he can get to the rim, it was Hood's midrange game that was the most exciting to see. A few times he would fake a perimeter jumper, get the defender to bite and then go by and pull up for a mid-range jumper. It's a lost art.
With Hood and Parker able to play multiple positions and roles, Duke spent much of the second half able to experiment with players at different positions. Several times neither point guard was on the floor which allowed Sulaimon and Matt Jones to try their hands running the team as a defacto point guard. During those times it wasn't unusual for Parker or Hood to bring the ball up the court and play ‘point forward'. At one point Duke ran a lineup of Jones, Hood, Parker, Murphy, and Plumlee. That's a line up of 6'5, 6'8, 6'8, 6'8, and 7'0. And one that's hardly lacking in athleticism or speed.
5. Still some concerns, but it's October
There were a number of positives from the game, but the coaches are likely going to work to correct a number of errors as well. For starters, this is the second straight public exhibition where Duke is struggling to shoot from the perimeter. At Countdown to Craziness the Blue Devils shot 6-of-26 from the perimeter. Against Bowie State? 7-of-30 from the perimeter (23 percent). That includes a combined 3-of-15 from the stable of shooting guards (Jones, Sulaimon, and Dawkins). Blue Devil fans may have gotten used to the team shooting over 40 percent as a unit from the perimeter a season ago, and this roster may not require such deadeye marksmanship with the ability to space the floor and get to the rim. But, if that's the case then the coaches probably would like to see better conversion rates when their guys head to the free throw line. Duke shot just 17-of-26 from the line in the first half, and 17-of-24 in the second for a 68 percent conversion rate on the night. In short…a lot of points were left at the line.
- Despite playing at a faster pace and rotating 12 players for extended minutes, Duke managed to maintain a 20 to 9 assist to turnover ratio.
- The Blue Devil defense in 2013-2014 will resemble the teams of the late 90s and early 00s with full-court pressure. It worked against the overmatched Bulldogs who were forced into 23 turnovers on the night.
- While Parker gets a ton of attention, his two classmates are certainly pushing for their own piece of recognition and inclusion in the crunch time rotation. Matt Jones played half the game, scored 15 points and grabbed four rebounds while rotating between the point and shooting guard positions. Meanwhile, Semi Ojeleye looked like the team's best rebounder at times, grabbing six boards in 11 minutes.
- The Blue Devils have a week to prepare for the second and final exhibition game against Drury on November 2nd. Following that matchup, Duke will work another week before opening the season against Davidson on Friday, November 8th and then traveling to Chicago to face Kansas on November 12th.