Duke’s Christmas Wish List: What do you get for the nation’s No. 1 team?
Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.
What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.
Gotta have it list-topper: More rebounding
If the nation’s No. 1 team has one thing that it doesn’t do especially well, it’s rebounding the basketball. Mason Plumlee has turned into a dominant double-double machine (19.2 points, 11.3 rebounds per game), but no other player averages more than 5.2 boards per game.
In perhaps Duke’s most tightly contest game of the season, a 76-71 win over Louisville, the Blue Devils were outrebounded by six. That came from a Cardinals team that was without center Gorgui Dieng, who was sitting with a wrist injury. Of Louisville’s 37 rebounds in that game, 13 were offensive rebounds, which afforded second-chance opportunities.
In close games in conference play and come tournament time, those types of stats can decide close games. It’s not a glaring hole, but for a team that is first in the nation, and improvement could only help to solidify them near the top.
Stocking stuffer: Added depth
Duke relies heavily on six players for the majority of its minutes, then uses Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, and Josh Hairston to fill in the gaps. As the season goes on, that type of minutes distribution could be less than desirable. Over the past two games, the freshman Jefferson has shown that he can be efficient in the time he’s on the floor. Against Temple in nine minutes, he was 3-of-5 from the field and had seven points.
He is a high-IQ basketball player with a good feel for the game and an ability to get offensive rebounds and be in the right place at the right time around the rim. If Coach K incrementally gives him more minutes, there’s a good chance he could produce.
Planning on re-gifting: Memories of last year’s loss to Lehigh
Duke wants to be a new team this season, one different than the group that lost to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament last season. Though there was no enormous influx of new talent, different pieces are stepping into key spots and this Duke team looks hard to beat. For Seth Curry to improve in nearly every statistical offensive category and have Quinn Cook become an effective true point guard are both important. All of those players need to keep rolling if Duke is going to be Final Four-bound.