Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, Duke will face one of the toughest week-long stretches of its season, but tonight the No. 9 Blue Devils take their 2-0 record back to Cameron Indoor Stadium for what should prove to be a tune-up contest against Florida Gulf Coast. The visitors from Fort Myers, Fla., who just joined Division I basketball three years ago, bring a youthful squad that projects to finish near the top of the Atlantic Sun but should not pose too much of a challenge for Duke.
With tipoff less than three hours away, here are three things to watch for tonight against the Eagles:
Will Seth Curry stay hot?
Curry has barely practiced for most of the early season due to a nagging leg injury, but the pain has not stopped him from being a huge factor in both of Duke’s games so far. He has taken 29 percent of Duke’s shots when he has been on the floor, a figure not seen since Nolan Smith shouldered a huge offensive burden in the wake of Kyrie Irving’s 2010 injury. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, Curry has been ablaze from the field, draining 12-of-24 shots including 6-of-12 3-pointers. As long as he keeps up the shooting performance, he will be a hero, but if he continues to take that many shots without making such a high percentage, he could become a bit of a liability since he hasn’t offered much besides scoring—among the six players with more than 30 minutes played, Curry has the fewest rebounds on the team (three) and the fewest assists (two).
Can Quinn Cook get his act together?
At the start of the season, there was plenty of talk about how much Cook could add to the Duke offense as a dynamic playmaker. Expectations weren’t unfounded after he averaged 6.5 assists per 40 minutes last year and assisted a remarkable 31.5 percent of Duke’s field goals when he was on the floor. On top of that, he turned the ball over just 1.9 times per 40 minutes. So far this year, he has yet to appear in the starting lineup and his numbers in both assists and turnovers have gone the wrong direction. He is so far assisting just 18.6 percent of Duke field goals, which doesn’t even rank him in the top three among his teammates (behind Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson and Mason Plumlee). And on the turnover side, he’s committing nearly 70 percent more per minute of play. If Cook can offer a bit of extra oil to the Duke offensive machine as he showed he could last year, this team becomes a new level of dangerous.
What is to become of Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy?
This was supposed to be the year that Duke finally had true small forward options on the roster, in Murphy and Jefferson. But Murphy is the biggest question mark so far for the Blue Devils, as the heralded recruit redshirted last season and has seen just two minutes of action in the team’s two games thus far. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has denied reports that Murphy is injured, meaning that Krzyzewski is simply choosing to leave the 6-foot-8 Rhode Island native on the bench. If Murphy does not play tonight, it will be fair to begin wondering if he will crack the Duke rotation at all this season. Meanwhile, Jefferson has played only 17 minutes despite looking strong in limited action, with five points, three rebounds, two assists, a steal and no turnovers in less than a half’s worth of action.
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