It has been so long since Duke last played a game that I may have to look at a roster to know who exactly is playing on this year’s team. Okay maybe not that long.
But it has been a number of days since the Blue Devils dispatched the Temple Owls before going on break for final exams. A lot has actually happened in that time frame. Duke has become the No. 1 ranked team in both polls after posting one of the more impressive resumes to date. After Indiana was knocked off last week it was only natural for Duke to take the top spot.
It marks the 16th year in Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure at Duke where he has led the Blue Devils to the top of the national ranking and he has had his teams win 207 games while ranked No. 1. This will be this particular teams first test after a long break and as the nation’s top team and you can expect to see a few things.
For starters I would suspect there will be quite a bit of rust. The team is good but not having played or practiced all that much since December 8, will likely mean the team isn’t as sharp. It was good for Seth Curry though to get some rest for his injured leg and it has allowed Marshall Plumlee to get back into some action.
Marshall Plumlee began practicing during the break and according to reports has been practicing well after having missed the Blue Devils first 9 games with a broken bone in his foot.
The younger Plumlee will likely get his first game action against the Big Red but that doesn’t necessarily mean Duke fans should expect a huge stat line though. I would expect him to get a few minutes of action to get into the flow of the game and to rest his older brother Mason, but possible more if there is foul trouble or if the game gets out of control.
Another interesting things to watch will be how Krzyzewski utilizes the bench. There has been much hand wringing over his use of redshirt freshman Alex Murphy who went from starting in the team’s two exhibition games and who has been relegated to spot duty since.
Murphy has the potential to be a key player off the bench for Duke but hasn’t played with the confidence the coaches apparently want to see to give him more playing time. It will be interesting to see how or if he is used in the next two games which are subsequently on back to back nights.
Amile Jefferson is another player off the bench who has shown some flashes but has been limited in more competitive games. Against Cornell though, I would expect Jefferson and possibly Murphy to get some early action.
Overall the starting lineup and rotation probably won’t be too much different than it was before the break. I would expect their to be some defensive lapses due to communication breakdowns as well as some sluggish shooting but ultimately Duke should be too good for Cornell.
Expect them to work the ball into Mason Plumlee who is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game this season. He has been the Blue Devils best player and it will be important to continue to establish his presence down in the post.
Don’t expect anything different from the team after a long break other than them coming out and playing hard, which is certainly what the Duke coaching staff wants to see. This game could be closer than most might think for a while but ultimately Duke should win the game relatively easily as long as they play hard and execute.