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Exhibitions Over, Duke Begins Quest Friday

Unlike the College Football preseason which seems to drag on forever, the college basketball preseason by comparison seems rather quick despite the inclusion of exhibition games.

It seems just like yesterday that Duke kicked off its practice and since then a lot has already happened and here we are just a few days away from the tip-off to the 2012-13 season. In that time since mid October the Blue Devils have lost Marshall Plumlee for up to a month with a broken bone in his foot.

They’ve also seen one of their senior leaders in Seth Curry be hampered with a nagging lower leg injury that held him out of the first exhibition and could linger for the entire season. Mike Krzyzewski indicated after the second exhibition game against Winston-Salem State that Curry’s injury was something the team was just going to manage and that he would likely not be completely well.

Those aren’t good ways to start your season especially with the early season schedule they have coming up. Following their tune up opener against Georgia State, they go straight into the lion’s den and face defending national champion Kentucky. Shortly after that they will play in the Battle for Atlantis that could mean matchups with Memphis and Louisville among others.

Then there is the Big 10/ACC Challenge that pits Duke against Ohio State for the second consecutive year and all that is before Christmas. It is hard to argue any other team in the country has that challenging of an early season schedule.

Still the Blue Devils have had some good news. The new guys are going to be good. The best of the bunch so far has got to be Rasheed Sulaimon who averaged double figures in both the exhibitions. He is a smooth player that appears to have all the tools to be a standout in the ACC not just on the Blue Devils team.

Fellow true freshman Amile Jeffferson has also been impressive with his enthusiasm and opportunistic play. He is a bit undersized body-wise to bang with bigger players but he as a sticktoitiveness that likely will earn him some minutes, especially in the absence of Marshall Plumlee.

Alex Murphy hasn’t posted stellar numbers in either exhibition but it is easy to foresee him being a major factor on both ends of the court this season. He is athletic, stronger and has a solid all-around game that once it starts clicking will be an added bonus.

Toss in the impressive play from Mason Plumlee who has looked like every bit of the preseason All-ACC First Team selection he is, and Duke has a solid team right now that has a high ceiling.

They are not a finished product and have to improve on several areas including defensive rebounding and shooting. Duke made only one three-point shot out of 17 against Winston-Salem State. Still unlike past seasons, last one included, this team isn’t necessarily designed to have to make a lot of threes to win.

Mason Plumlee will be the central focus of the offense and if Quinn Cook can become the player everyone in the Duke camp feels he can be then expect a lot of improvement out of the Blue Devils this season.

It all starts Friday night when Georgia State comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium and as always the magnifying glass will be focused on how well the Blue Devils play, not just by the media but by the Duke fans themselves.

There have been plenty of signs in the exhibitions that this Duke team should be better than last seasons, but those are only exhibitions and the real test comes Friday in a game that counts.

That is when the quest truly begins and even though Georgia State isn’t Kentucky, we will learn a lot from that game that tells us if the following game against the Wildcats will be a classic or a dud.

So, here’s to the journey, it should be fun.