Mike Krzyzewski hopes to avoid another March upset
|Visit the online store for Duke and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.|
The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals have arrived on newsstands all over the country.
To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.
We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 9 Duke.
The stunning ending to last season, when unheralded Lehigh knocked Duke out of the NCAA Tournament, jolted the Blue Devil program to its core last spring. For only the second time since 1996, the Blue Devils failed to win at least one game in the NCAAs.
While admitting Lehigh was the better team that night, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski nevertheless set out to ensure such a defeat doesn’t become normal for the Blue Devils.
“(We) just need to be tougher in what we’re doing, how we’re practicing, how we condition, how we bond as a group,” Krzyzewski says. “I take a look at all those things. I think you’d look at it closer no matter who we got beat by. … When you leave the tournament that early, that’s not what you want to do.”
While a foot injury to forward Ryan Kelly slowed Duke in March, it was an overall lack of size on the perimeter that hampered the team all season. This season, Krzyzewski believes that won’t be a problem with the arrival of 6-4 freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon to go along with a pair of 6-8 freshman small forwards, Alex Murphy (redshirt) and Amile Jefferson.
“I thought we were just a very fair defensive team last year, and I think we can be much better defensively next season, much more versatile,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to be bigger and more athletic.”
While a 27–7 overall record would be welcomed at many college basketball programs, losing to a No. 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament caused some serious introspection at Duke.
“I don’t think we had the internal leadership to be an outstanding team,” Krzyzewski says. “I mean 27–7 is good, but we wanted to win championships.”
The Blue Devils hope to create a balanced attack this season after being too reliant on jump-shooting last season. Mason Plumlee passed on the chance to be a first-round NBA Draft pick to return for his senior year. His work over the summer at Amare Stoudemire’s Skills Camp are an indication he intends to be a force in the middle as a senior.
Kelly, who also stands 6-11, is more a roving big man. He has 3-point shooting skills (40.8 percent last season) but can help with rebounding and defense inside. He scored 15 points or more 12 times last season.
Marshall Plumlee, the youngest of the three brothers, will add depth in the middle after redshirting last season. Unlike his older brothers, Marshall is a true on-the-blocks post player. Junior Josh Hairston, at 6-7, needs to become more polished on both ends if he is to contribute more.
Jefferson and Murphy give the frontcourt much-needed athleticism. Murphy, in particular, should be able to step out and guard away from the basket while also providing some rebounding help.
Seth Curry should be Duke’s most consistent perimeter scorer. An accomplished 3-point shooter, Curry has become better at driving and dishing as his career has progressed. His scoring will be needed even more with Andre Dawkins sitting out the 2012-13 season as a redshirt.
Sulaimon, a top-20 national recruit, arrives at Duke with the reputation as a scorer who also can create scoring opportunities for his teammates. His ability to defend will be a welcome addition as well.
Point guard will be an area of intense focus. Junior Tyler Thornton and sophomore Quinn Cook both started last season but neither was consistently effective. Thornton is a respected team leader who is adept on the defensive end. But he shot only 37.9 percent last season and lacks scoring punch to keep opponents honest. Cook struggled early last season with a lingering knee issue that carried over from high school. He’s healthy now and possesses the playmaking skills to make a big difference for the Blue Devils.
Duke possesses all the pieces necessary to challenge for the ACC championship. The Blue Devils have three experienced senior starters returning in Curry, Kelly and Mason Plumlee who will provide scoring from the perimeter to the post. Kelly and Plumlee are strong team defenders and rebounders.
To reach maximum potential, which at Duke means competing for a NCAA championship, the Blue Devils must find a competent, consistent point guard. They’ll also need scoring and defensive contributions from newcomers Murphy and Jefferson, and Sulaimon must prove he can score and defend at college basketball’s highest level.