Duke Report

Duke-Kentucky: What We Learned

We can take away a few things from Duke’s 75-68 victory over No.3 Kentucky and we can certainly toss a few other things out but make no mistake the Blue Devils got a big victory.

Generally it is best not to make too much out of an early season victory even against a good team, and this is just another example of that. While Duke clearly looks like an improved team over last seasons, I can recall a big victory over Kansas early in the year that meant absolutely nothing when the Blue Devils were losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Lehigh.

So, while it is always good to beat Kentucky and especially its coach John Calipari, it is a nice win that the Blue Devils and the fans, who tend to hold on to these kind of things longer than they should, need to move on from.

But what can we take out of the victory? Several things to be exact.

Mason Plumlee appears to be the real deal. After three years of showing glimpses of being the kind of player everyone feels like he should be, he looks like he is ready to finally do it on a consistent basis.

Plumlee scored 18 points and was a real difference maker in keeping the Blue Devils poised and in the game early when they were taking Kentucky’s best shot.  Some may say he needs to get more rebounds, he finished with 3, and they’d be right but considering the foul trouble he was in, it was hard for him to be aggressive on the boards.

We also got a good idea that without Austin Rivers, Seth Curry can start acting like, well Seth Curry again. Curry put up 23 points and hit some huge shots in the clutch when it looked like the Blue Devils might waiver under the pressure of a late Kentucky run.

Curry put the ball in his hands and seemed to make play after play on his way to a game high in scoring. So while there is going to be the ongoing concern of his health it didn’t stop him from putting up a key performance and proving he will likely be a guy that the Blue Devils will count on this season.

And not that a win necessarily was needed to prove the point, Mike Krzyzewski yet again proved that he is far and away the better coach between he and John Calipari.

I wrote on my site Tuesday that Krzyzewski is just the better coach plain and simple and on Tuesday night he proved that in so many ways. Krzyzewski has always been seen as a brilliant motivator and tactician and it looked like he had his team fired up and prepared to play a much more athletic team.

Part of his success is the fact that he has older, more experienced players he can rely on and while Caliapri can collect all the young talent he wants, there is not substitute for guys who have been there and done that. At times the young Wildcats looked lost and their leader looked even more clueless.

At halftime when asked about his thoughts, Caliapri stumbled over himself before taking a shot at Duke claiming they were flopping and if this had been the NBA they would all be suspended. He later tried to move beyond that saying it was a joke but there is always a little truth behind jokes.

Prior to the game he was sandbagging big time and setting up the list of excuses on why his team might lose. Krzyzewski rarely gives excuses and when he was asked about the flopping claim, Krzyzewski applied his acerbic wit like a pro stating simply that a charge has contact and a flop doesn’t.

Calipari wreaks of a guy who is overcompensating and his halftime comments did nothing but attempt to distract those watching that he had no clue. Is it true he had young guys going against a veteran team? Yeah it is. Is it true he was without a full compliment of players? Yep, that too. We know all the excuses because Calipari was sure to tell us all about them.

And while all the highlights will show Kentucky’s plethora of dunks, and the announcers can talk about how dangerous this Kentucky team will be in March, it was a Duke team that won the game and they did it behind senior leaders and a coach that doesn’t just collect talent but coaches it.

It may not be as important as a win in March and it certainly doesn’t mean it will translate into March success, but it was a big confidence boost for the Blue Devils and their fans will take it.

  • http://www.dukereport.com Curtis Clontz

    It was a great game for sure.  For me it proved two things…  1 – Kentucky is scary but will have problems this year.  2 – Duke is Duke…  Great coaching, great leadership, and solid contributions from upperclassmen.
    Last night Duke looked solid!  If Mason can stay out of foul trouble and Hairston can build on the game then this team will be a tough matchup for anyone come March.

  • brooklynfandan

    In depth examination of the Mason Plumlee conundrum here: http://zagsblog.com/articles/the-mason-plumlee-conundrum/

  • mcchesiii

    One observation about the game that no one has commented on is that Coach K continued to allow Alex Poythress to dunk at will over our much smaller guards (Sulaimon and Thornton) who guarded him in the second half. As I recall, one of our chief concerns last year was not having a player that could guard someone like Harrison Barnes. With Amile Jefferson, I thought we filled that need with someone long and athletic to guard a player like Harrison Barnes or Alex Poythress.  Why did we make no attempt to put a bigger player (like Jefferson) on him?
    Ches Goodall

    • http://www.dukereport.com/ dukereport

      @mcchesiii At times, K is stubborn about things like that. He wants his core to adjust to the situation at hand, not necessarily by changing lineups or strategies.