In the last few years, Duke has struggled on the defensive end. Although they have not been perfect at defending the post, their biggest question mark was defending on the perimeter. Many of Duke's losses last year occurred because they were unable to defend elite guards: Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Shane Larkin, Dez Wells, etc. With a bigger emphasis on perimeter defense and a influx of athletic guards and wings, Duke's perimeter defense should improve this season. While Duke's perimeter defense should improve, the question of how they will defend the post has emerged.
The best possible answer to this question is Marshall Plumlee. He is a full seven feet, athletic, long armed and can take up a lot of space in the paint. If Marshall Plumlee can stay healthy and improve his footwork, he should go a long way to helping Duke's post defense. Those are two big if's though. I definitely believe Marshall will be able to help at points this season (this will be talked about in an article coming up), but we will have to see if he becomes to answer.
If Marshall cannot step up, Duke will be forced to guard the paint with athleticism and knowledge. Amile Jefferson, Duke's likely starting center, is undersized but can match up using his quickness and long arms. He is not the best post defender, but he can give Duke quality minutes. The other Duke "big man" is senior Josh Hairston. At just 6'7", Josh Hairston does not have the size to guard top post players. He performs admirably, taking charges and using his body, but he does not have the true size to guard top big men.
After Duke's big men, the other option is to use a wing, and attack the paint with consistent double teams. Luckily for Duke, they have a plethora of tall and athletic wings. Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Alex Murphy and Semi Ojeleye have the athleticism and the height to give centers fits, but it would likely only work for a short period of time. Duke will use this at times but it likely will not be the true answer.
In the end, I believe Duke's success at post defense will depend on Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. I expect Amile Jefferson to succeed in his likely starting role, and provide enough post defense for Duke to overcome the weakness. Amile's size holds him back from becoming a top level post defender though. For Duke to get rid of this question and further themselves as a title contender, Marshall Plumlee will need to take the role and flourish. It is tough to put so much on the plate of this oft-injured player, but he is the only true center and he will need to step up for Duke to become a great all around team.