Duke's rise and remaining questionsA nice objective article despite the author.
The Duke Blue Devils' loss to Lehigh in last season's NCAA tournament was a stunner, but there were plenty of warning signs for that team heading into the tourney. The 2011-12 Blue Devils didn't have many of the traits that have made Duke college basketball's model program for the past 20 years.
Traditionally one of the best defensive teams in the nation, Duke struggled to defend the ball off the dribble, which put it in rotations and at a defensive disadvantage. Its offense was stagnant at times, with Austin Rivers often dominating the ball as opposed to making the next pass and moving the defense. Mason Plumlee showed flashes of being an elite frontcourt player but didn't bring it every game, Quinn Cook had trouble adjusting to the intensity of the college game, and the loss of Ryan Kelly to injury at the end of the season hurt the Devils more than the average fan realized.
Cook is having an outstanding sophomore season, averaging 5.6 assists per game with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. His decision-making, a real issue last season, has been outstanding, as has his shot selection. He makes enough 3s to keep the defense honest and has a knack for getting to the basket. But his greatest contribution is on the defensive end at the point of attack, an area Duke struggled with last season. Cook has the ability to defend the ball off the bounce at the point.
Kelly is one of the most underappreciated players in the country, a tough matchup who can shoot with range, put it on the floor and score on the block and a committed defender who can defend multiple positions. He uses his size and length to contain quicker players and still averages 1.8 blocks per game.