With a big game against Kentucky on the docket tonight, we took to Twitter from our account @dukebasketball to ask if people had any questions about Duke basketball. Chronicle basketball beat writer Brady Buck answers four of the questions below.
Brady Buck: This is the million-dollar question surrounding the team right now. I wish I had a more definitive answer for you, but nobody seems to have an explanation for why Alex Murphy did not play on Friday night. Many thought he would be in the starting lineup, especially considering that he is the only true small forward on the roster.
After Friday’s contest against Georgia State, Murphy indicated to the media that he was healthy. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski justified utilizing a 3-guard lineup much of the night—without Murphy—by vaguely talking about the nature of the game’s matchups.
For many, Krzyzewski’s reasoning seems quite odd as it implies that Duke—the vastly superior team at every position Friday night—would have to completely nix Murphy from the rotation to matchup with and defeat Georgia State. It’s definitely a strange situation, so something is likely going on behind the scenes. There has been rampant speculation about Murphy violating team rules, but those claims are completely unfounded and very unfair to Murphy.
@ATDav1s asks, “is Cook our PG or what??!!”
BB: In short, I believe Cook will be the team’s starting point guard on most nights, but there will be some growing pains along the way for the sophomore in his first full season playing healthy. With Krzyzewski strongly valuing Thornton’s consistency and defensive presence, it appears that Cook is on a tighter leash than some expected. Krzyzewski probably wanted to send a message too after Cook’s underwhelming performances in the team’s two exhibition games—nine turnovers versus four assists, collectively, against two Division II foes.
BB: Kentucky has a slight size advantage with Marshall Plumlee out of commission for the Blue Devils. Therefore, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly will be forced to play most of the game. Staying out of foul trouble will be key for the Blue Devils’ frontcourt. Furthermore, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy—assuming he plays—and the rest of the Blue Devil frontcourt are going to have to box out and be physical on the boards as well, especially when Plumlee is out of the game. The guards, meanwhile, cannot afford to get beat off the dribble by Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin, which is even more critical without Plumlee—the team’s best shot blocker—on the floor.
@landonjones21, “who needs to have a big game against a team like Kentucky?”
BB: Duke needs production out of their seasoned veterans in this early-season showdown. Perhaps most important of all, Mason Plumlee—who is much more experienced, polished and stronger than Kentucky freshmen Nerlens Noel and Will Cauley-Stein—has deliver for the Blue Devils to move to 2-0.
After seeing Maryland center Alex Len dominate the Wildcats’ youthful frontcourt by scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 boards, Duke will probably employ the same strategy the Terrapins did—attack the Wildcats’ inexperienced big men in the paint. If Plumlee can put up numbers similar to what Len did, the Blue Devils have an excellent chance to knock off the defending champs.
The one-on-one battle between the shooting guards carries a lot of weight in this game. Already considered the best perimeter defender for Duke by most, Rasheed Sulaimon will likely have one of his toughest defensive assignments of the season Tuesday night—defending Goodwin, who netted 16 points in Kentucky’s opener. Goodwin looks to be one of the Wildcats’ most consistent offensive weapons due to his ability to shoot the ball from deep and attack the rim. Additionally, he is probably the most assertive player on the offensive end for Kentucky. Whether or not Sulaimon can slow him down and force him to take difficult shots will be a key for the Blue Devils.
Follow @BradyBuck on Twitter.