From The Stands: Columbia & Ga. Southern

The first two games are in the books with Duke winning by an average of 33.5 points per game. Despite the comfortable margins of victory, there are causes for concern among Blue Devil faithful. TDD examines.

LINK: TDD's Post Game Ruminations

What Went Right:

New Kids Can Play: With such a young team there was no guarantee when it came to the Blue Devils being able to play at the high level many expect of Duke. However, all four freshmen had their moments in the two wins over Columbia and Georgia Southern. The most consistent of the four was Jon Scheyer who averaged 11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. The 6-foot-5 combo guard was also Duke's best option at point guard against the Eagles, logging four assists and no turnovers.

Lance Thomas was steady in both games, averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Brian Zoubek played well against Columbia, scoring 18 points, but was shutout against the much faster Eagles on Monday night. Zoubek did manage to grab five rebounds in six minutes against Georgia Southern, however. Like Zoubek, Gerald Henderson looked much better in one game than the other. After scoring just one field goal (4 points) against Columbia, Henderson seemed to find his role in the offensive gameplan on the way to 13 points in 20 minutes on Monday.

The Twilight Zone: For most of the last decade Duke has relied on perimeter shooting to win ball games. This season, however, the Blue Devils are making a concentrated effort to attack the basket off the dribble or by going inside. Against Georgia Southern the Blue Devils shot just five three pointers all game long, making two of them.

Without so many long field goal attempts producing long rebounds, Duke was able to out-rebound the Eagles by a 43-34 margin and control the tempo of the game in the second half, something that was not happening before intermission (when Ga. Southern led for most of the first half). For the season, Duke has an 81-61 advantage on the glass.

Pick Your Poison: Unlike years past, it's a bit harder to prepare for the Blue Devils' offensive attack. Mainly because there's not guarantee who will be the focus of that attack. Through two games, only DeMarcus Nelson and Scheyer have yet to be held under 10 points, yet six players are averaging 8.5 points or more.

With more weapons available to him (out of need more than anything), Coach Krzyzewski has showcased a lot more depth than Duke is used to. Through two games, 10 different players are averaging 10 or more minutes per game, with only Nelson, McRoberts, and Scheyer topping the 30 minute per game mark. After that trio, no one plays more than 20.5 minutes per game (Henderson).

What Went Wrong:

Versatile...to a fault?: It's apparent to anyone watching Duke play this year that Josh McRoberts is a very versatile player. At 6-foot-10 his skill set seems closer to a guard than a big man - which makes him a tough match up, but also means the opposing post players become difficult to contain - especially if Duke doesn't have Zoubek or Thomas in the game.

Early on against Georgia Southern it seemed as though McRoberts was content to float around the perimeter. In the second half, however, McRoberts set up shop a bit closer to the basket and was much more effective.

A Long Road Back: The effects of his five week layoff are evident when watching Greg Paulus run the floor. While the sophomore floor general continues to play himself into shape, the Blue Devils will have to compensate by 'hiding' him on the defensive end of the floor. Against Georgia Southern, the man to man defense experiment ended poorly for Duke as Paulus was routinely left gehind as his man exploded past him for points. Eventually the Blue Devils rotated Nelson over and that stopped the bleeding, but until the sophomore captain is back to full speed you have to think opposing point guards aren't worried about being stopped on the offensive end. Offensively, Paulus is Duke's unquestioned leader, and he looked the part in the opener with 7 assists against one turnover. Monday night, however, some of his decisions left those in Cameron scratching their heads (to put it mildly). Without that proven go-to scorer, Duke is going to have to value the ball more than ever. Against Georgia Southern, some of the passes thrown never had a chance.

Final Thoughts:

As the announcers for ESPN continually mentioned (when they weren't continually 'telling it like it is' about things such as teams getting a fair shake in Cameron, 'Valentines', and making complete fools out of themselves by going into the front row at Cameron), this is a very young team that is clearly a work in progress. The play of Nelson in the first two games is certianly encouraging, as is the immediate impact of Scheyer. The rest of the roster will no doubt be a roller coaster until Krzyzewski finally settles on a rotation. Add in that the team's only true point guard missed the entire preseason schedule and is playing his way into shape, and the preseason All-American big man is still trying to define his role on this team and you have all the makings of an entertaining ride. Come late February and early March this team has the potential to be very good (if not better than last season's Sweet 16 squad), but the road to that point will no doubt have some bumps along the way. Even so, it's safe to say the Duke coaching staff is pleased with the first two games.

Looking Ahead:

Before heading to Kansas City for the semifinals of the CBE Classic, Duke will host the UNC-G Spartans on Thursday evening in Cameron. That game will likely go a long way in defining which players crack the top of the rotation against the winner of the Palo Alot bracket (likely either Air Force or Stanford).


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