The No. 5 Duke basketball squad will begin three grueling days of action this afternoon against Minnesota at 3:30 p.m. in this year’s Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
The Golden Gophers currently sit as the first team out of the AP Top 25, so people expect this game to be close—Duke is only a four-point favorite in the betting world.
With tipoff nearing, here are three keys to watch out for in this afternoon’s tropical action:
Can Duke keep the Golden Gophers off the boards?
Know this about Tubby Smith’s squad—it can rebound, averaging 44.8 per game so far this season, 16th best in Division I. The Blue Devils, by contrast, average just 33.0 per game, ranking 257th. Rodney Williams Jr. leads the Golden Gophers with 6.5 per game, but their most dangerous weapon on the glass is Trevor Mbakwe. After tearing his ACL last season, the 6-foot-8 senior has been eased back in to action this year but is tallying 6.0 rebounds per game in just 16.3 minutes. In the team’s last game against Richmond, he played 27 minutes and grabbed 12 boards.
Will Plumlee continue to get his touches?
It’s no secret that Mason Plumlee has looked phenomenal to start the season, averaging 21.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks to begin the season, making 77.4% of his shots from the field. Yes, that’s 77.4%!!!!!!!!!! The question is if Duke will continue to find a way to get Plumlee the ball in its traditionally guard-oriented offense. Plumlee has been vocal on the court this year demanding the ball—the guards just need to make sure they get it to him. After all, his success helps them too: The better he is down low, the more attention he attracts and the more open looks they’ll get on the outside.
Can Quinn continue to dish and swish?
In Duke’s win against Florida Gulf Coast, Cook recorded a career-high nine assists. That’s the type of point guard play the Blue Devils sorely lacked last season, and it’s a dynamic impact that Cook—and only Cook—can bring to that position this year. What’s important to note, though, is that Cook also sparked the offense with his shooting. He had just eight points, but hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions in the first half, sparking Duke’s 30-0 run with the second of those treys. He has to be the catalyst for this offense when its at its best.
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