The Rams of Winston-Salem State take the trip to Cameron later this week. While no one will give them a real shot to win the game, it will be a very good test for the Devils.
On paper this one shouldn’t be close, but there are 3 things that you as a fan should pay close attention to.
Mason Plumlee’s Dominance
Hyped as a first round pick over the off-season, Mason brought his impressive skill set back to Duke. His return makes two statements…that he wants to hang another banner and he wants to fight to be one of the best Duke big men in history.
Mason may not be Christian Leattner, but he can be just as good as recent big men Sheldon Williams and Elton Brand. This team plays to his strengths and other teams may not be able to double team him each time he gets the ball.
It will be important to see how the Duke game plan centers around him in this one. He could be an All ACC first team selection. This is the perfect time for Duke to start running everything through him. In addition to his his offense, it will be important to watch how he deals with foul trouble. The best way for teams to combat his talent is to put him on the bench. As other teams force it to the paint begging for fouls, he must avoid the temptation and play solid D.
The Point Guard Competition
In what could quickly result in a no-contest victory for Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton can use this game to his advantage. While he is not the better offensive player, his defensive skills could earn him extra minutes. WSSU’s Justin Glover is a solid guard. If Glover can easily get by Cook then it could put question marks into Cook’s D. It will be interesting to see how the minutes are split between the two and if Thornton is actually in this competition. If Cook gets significantly more time then this competition will all but be in the bag.
Rasheed Sulaimon’s growth
Rasheed Sulaimon has been getting a ton of attention of late. Already being called the next Nolan Smith, he might be the perfect person to fill the void left by Austin Rivers. Also called the anti-Rivers, he is a beast in the making. Scoring 20 in his first live action was extremely impressive. While Duke does not need him to replace Rivers, if he can have a similar production then this Duke team will be special.
As Rasheed seemed to run the court like a vet, “he’s on fire” rang through the air like the old school NBA Jam game. It will be interesting to see if he was indeed on fire, or if this is what we can expect night in and night out.
The best part of exhibition games are that the team can tinker, change, or do anything and it doesn’t matter. If Coach K wanted to suit up Bigfoot, it wouldn’t even matter. While it would be a bold tactic, it wouldn’t have the benefit of putting the younger players into game situations. Don’t be surprised if the youth of the team gets a lot of minutes as they are given the ability and time to shine.