Duke has played one of the toughest schedules in the country this season with just Florida Gulf-Coast, Delaware Georgia State qualifying as “cupcake” games. Every other game has been against either a top 25 team or a team that will spend some time in those ranks this season, including Saturday’s matchup with Fran Dunphy’s Temple Owls.
In a rematch of one of the Blue Devils’ most disheartening losses from last season, Mason Plumlee and Duke continue their warpath of destruction into their first game in seven days. While I’m sure the academics have been at the forefront of these players minds, Plumlee and his teammates are likely itching to get back out on the court and continue their hot streak.
Temple played Delaware on Nov. 25, giving this non-conference matchup more context than you would otherwise see. The Owls did beat the Fighting Blue Hens, but did so 80-75 — a far cry from Duke’s 88-50 drubbing of Delaware.
Here are some things to keep an eye on ahead of Saturday’s matchup at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
The rust factor
This is Duke’s only game in a 17-day stretch and the layoff could take its toll. Duke has not been quick out of the gates this season so a fast start in this game is unlikely.
If Duke can withstand a slow start and play their game throughout the first half, the second half will take care of itself. Plumlee, Curry and Kelly have been killers in the second half of games this season and I wouldn’t expect that to change today.
Mason Plumlee dominating smaller bigs
Temple has just two regular rotation players over 6-foot-6 in Anthony Lee and Jake O’Brien who both stand 6-foot-9. Plumlee has been one of the most dominant post players in the country and will likely continue that Saturday against smaller opponents.
Plumlee scored 16 points and added 13 rebounds in last season’s loss to the Owls. I would expect a similar — if not more impressive — score line from the big fella as Dunphy makes the call on whether or not to help off weak side shooters or Kelly in the post.
Seth Curry’s health
Curry is expected to return after missing the Delaware game with an ankle injury. The layoff likely will have done the player well and he should be itching to get some shots up and make some plays like he did in the early season.
With Curry now back in the lineup, Alex Murphy will likely return to the bottom of the rotation after a solid performance against Delaware. Curry coming back bumps everyone back a spot and likely will take away any momentum he was building.
That being said, this team is better when Seth Curry is playing well.
Jimmy Kelley is the founder and lead writer for Devils in Durham. Follow him on Twitter @JKell17