“Nothing between us, but air and opportunity”
This quote is usually followed by two dudes throwing hands, and in my opinion, that is exactly what the Duke Blue Devils are going to have to do for the rest of the ACC season. No coaches, players, pundits or opposing fans are going to feel sorry for Duke so they can’t feel sorry for themselves. Yes, Duke has lost a huge part of its offense and defense in Ryan Kelly for an undetermined amount of time. All the people including myself clamoring for more bench playing time can now be silent because that time is upon us. Players will have to step up as Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson did. Players will have to mature faster than the original plan but that’s okay, trial by fire is better than warming pine. What remains to be seen is if the bench is ready. With full reps in practice we can only hope.
“Smell blood in the water”
Teams always give Duke their best shot, that is doubly true in ACC play. Any given game, anything can happen. Teams are going to look to exploit the hole left by senior forward Ryan Kelly. Teams are going to attack Duke off the dribble a lot more and, like last year, look to confuse Duke offensively. The best medicine for this Duke team is to continue to attack and not be offensively timid. With Kelly not on the floor, Duke is down a very good three point and foul shooter, but also one of its best defenders on the perimeter. Duke will need to attack off the bounce and get to the free throw line at a much higher clip with Kelly being out, they will have to make up for the lack of perimeter shooting.
“The need…for Rasheed”
If Duke is going to get back to its winning ways while concurrently on the road to recovery, it will need the Rasheed Sulaimon that was taking control before Christmas. Since Christmas, Rasheed is averaging 6.4 points a game, down about half of his 13 a game earlier in the year. It’s hard to tell if he is hitting a freshman wall or not, but getting the freshman going provides Duke with a threat from the perimeter as well as a player that can pick up points of off drives and from the free throw line if he’s aggressive.
“Swag in, swag out”
What I truly want to see is a confident Duke team taking the floor, a team that believes that despite injuries it is the number 1 team in the country. Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry are Duke’s captains and the undisputed leaders of the team but a lot can be made of Duke’s swagger with Quinn Cook playing the point. He is feisty, much improved on the defensive end and in his decision making. His demeanor on the court is a positive for Duke, whether it be a little good-natured trash talking or just a strong stare at the opposite team. It’s infectious. Duke needs to play and show intensity; a statement game in its next outing would go a long way toward building that confident swagger.