Wednesday night in Miami was nothing short of a devastating, demoralizing loss. Duke looked as though they had no interest in playing basketball, let alone winning the game, save a few fun moments from Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson. In the aftermath of this loss, fans are forced to wonder if Ryan Kelly‘s loss will be too much to overcome against good teams and whether or not the Blue Devils will learn something in defeat. With Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, it’s hard to believe they won’t.
So with that dismantling now firmly behind this team, Duke turns it’s attention forward to the next challenge: Maryland. The Terps will help answer a lot of the questions facing this Duke team in the post-Ryan Kelly era as they boast a big front line of Alex Len, Charles Mitchell and swingman Jake Layman, who stands 6-foot-8 (without the hair). A lineup like this would not have troubled a Kelly lineup, but without him it becomes and intimidating proposition.
Mason Plumlee will likely draw the assignment to Len as he is the only player even remotely in the Ukrainian big man’s league in terms of size and strength. That leaves Jefferson or Hairston, whichever draws the start at power forward, to deal with Mitchell and the other drawing the assignment on Layman.Personally, I would love to see a lineup of Quinn Cook, Seth Curry, Jefferson, Hairston and Plumlee matchup with their front line and drive the focus of the offense more towards opportunistic baskets. With Hairston and Jefferson on the floor together, Duke will have a much easier time competing on the offensive glass while not taking away Plumlee’s ability to drive and kick or pass out of double teams to Cook and Curry.
The only issue with this lineup is that Jefferson can’t space the floor quite the same way Rasheed Sulaimon or Murphy could. However, when the focus shifts to a guard-heavy lineup (Nick Faust, Dez Wells, Pe’Shon Howard), a simple substitution for Jefferson or Hairston can restore balance. For the first time this season, Duke’s lineup flexibility will play a big role.Murphy’s play against Miami was the lone positive in a sea of missed shots and poor effort, likely earning him some extra time on Saturday. If Murphy can produce at something close to what Kelly gave them (think 8-10 points, a three or two, good defense), Duke will begin to look like the team that earned the No. 1 ranking instead of the one that has lost it twice.