Here are some of the takeaways from Tuesday night's game:
1. You can't win if you leave that many points at the line
Simply put, the Blue Devils were horrendous at the free throw line in a game where being somewhere between passable and average would have likely produced a different outcome. In the first half alone the team shot just 6-of-13 and missed the front end of one-and-one situations on three different occasions. It resulted in just a two point advantage at halftime, which wasn't reflective of how well the team had played in the opening 20 minutes. Those lost points and opportunities seemed to haunt Duke in the second half as the big Kansas lineup and fatigue began to creep in. Parker converted all five of his free throw attempts, and Quinn Cook went 2-2 as well. The rest of the team combings to go 9-of-21 with only Rodney Hood shooting better than 50 percent (4-of-7).
2. Rasheed Sulaimon is settling into this new offense:
Despite being relegated to the role of sixth man to begin the season, the sophomore seems to be adapting the quickest to what Duke is attempting to do on offense. With Parker and Hood being options 1A and 1B, Sulaimon provided Duke a solid third scoring option for much of the second half. His shot selection raised some eyebrows at times, but down the stretch the 6-foot-4 sophomore continued to attack and work with his midrange game. For Duke to reach its potential, the coaches will need a second level of offense behind the two alphas. Getting 13 points on 50 percent shooting in 28 minutes 3. Jabari Parker is great; but he needs help:
Coach K said it best when describing Parker: "In two games he's been sensational". It's hard to argue the point. The Blue Devils' prized freshman scored a game high 27 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and provided a number of huge baskets to keep Duke in the game. However, at times it was Parker versus Kansas as several Duke players seemed content to pull up a chair and watch the future NBA'er go to work. It's hard to blame them, really. On Tuesday Parker was the best player on the floor. While many will point to the Grant Hill-like dunk, the most impressive play had to be his one on three fast break layup that was taken with ease via some nifty footwork. Going forward, however, he's going to need help. That help has to start with Rodney Hood who became extremely passive after a couple of nifty drive and dishes early in the game. After looking like Duke's best player against Davidson, Hood managed just 11 points and five rebounds and committed five turnovers against Kansas. Cook was also subpar on the night, looking passing on both ends of the floor and making a number of questionable decisions with the ball.
4. New rules are being called as written, Duke needs to adjust:
Krzyzewski mentioned as much in the post-game press conference. The officials are certainly calling a lot of fouls early in the season as the game looks to eliminate hand checks and more. The changes in the game are coming at a time when the Blue Devils are looking to return to the extended defense that earned the program such high levels of success in previous seasons. Against Kansas, the Blue Devils struggled to play their extended man-to-man pressure defense without picking up fouls. It resulted in Tyler Thornton and Jabari Parker fouling out, and Hood, Cook, and Sulaimon finishing the game with four fouls apiece. Throw in the fact that Duke lacks anyone to protect the rim at this point, and it's easy to see why Kansas was able to wear down the Blue Devils by consistently getting into the lane. If Duke cannot adjust and learn to pressure the ball while disrupting the passing lanes without being called for fouls, opposing teams are going to enjoy much of the same success Kansas found on Tuesday. 5. Rebounding:
Without a center that is ready to play extended minutes (Marshall Plumlee can't seem to fight his way to more than a handful of minutes each game), the Blue Devils are going to need to rebound by committee this season. That's hardly a revelation, but Tuesday may have gone a long way towards driving the point home. Kansas, one of the nation's biggest teams, out-rebounded Duke by 15 and won the battle of second chance points 11-5. While Parker logged a game high nine rebounds, the other Blue Devils manning the post (Amile Jefferson, Josh Hairston, and Plumlee) combined for just two rebounds in 38 minutes. While the offensive priority list seems to be taking shape, Duke has several rotational openings if players want to earn more minutes. Duke's rotation tightened up considerably in the second half, but if a player like Hairston, Plumlee, Alex Murphy, and even Semi Ojeleye showed the ability to rebound at a higher level, it'd be the ticket to some extended minutes.