Duke will have to forge ahead without senior Ryan Kelly for the foreseeable future, the 6’9 senior forward re-aggravated a previous foot injury, and while the extent of the injury was not made public, clearly Kelly will miss some games:
“We feel very badly for Ryan,”said Krzyzewski. “He is playing the best basketball of his career and this is a tough setback for him. We’re hoping for a good recovery and we are optimistic about his return.”
This is a huge loss for Duke, replacing Kelly’s 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game will not be easy.
So what does Duke do in the interim?
Duke will have to delve into its bench and either slide the majority of minutes to Josh Hairston, who has been getting extended minutes this season with around 11 a game, or try and plug in a more offensive minded player such as Alex Murphy or Amile Jefferson. The drawback being size and experience with both Amile and Alex. Both Freshman have shown signs lately of cracking the line-up for more minutes so it will be interesting how Duke prepares for Saturday against North Carolina State.
While not likely, Duke could look to really mix things up and start one of the freshman. Plugging Alex Murphy into the stretch 4 role could possibly be the confidence boost the freshman needs. Amile Jefferson has shown that he is a high energy guy and can be disruptive on the perimeter, his long arms are perfect for playing passing lanes. It’s unclear what Jefferson can give you on the glass with his slender frame.Duke will have to weigh the pluses and minuses of each and this weeks practice will go a long way toward determining how Duke will come out and who they will come out with.
What we do know is that Duke will need its remaining seniors to step up. Coming off of sub par offensive performances, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee will need to find their shooting touch against NC State. While not a great defensive team (second to last in scoring defense), NC State will put offensive pressure on Duke. If Duke falls into a scoring drought this could very easily become the first loss of the year for the Devils. Second only to UNC in scoring offense the Wolfpack can score in a variety of ways be it CJ Leslie on the inside or Rodney Purvis and Scott Wood on the perimeter.