There were two huge things I took away from Countdown to Craziness, Duke is extremely deep but their stars are much better everyone else. This puts Coach K in a difficult spot, where he will need to decide whether to use a deep bench or stick primarily with his starters. Duke will play an uptempo style of play this season, which would promote use of a bench, but it will be tough to take players like Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook off the court for an extended period of time. Only time will tell who plays and for how long, but I will give you my opinion from what I saw Friday night.
Duke's two star players, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, did not disappoint by putting up points frequently. Parker scored from all over the court and brought down a lot of rebounds. Rodney Hood was proficient attacking the rim off the dribble and played solid defense. Both players seem prime for quality seasons, and will likely receive close to 30 minutes per game this season. Duke has the depth to limit their minutes, but it will be tough to sit two competitive and talented players.
The two other guaranteed starters after last night are Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson. Quinn Cook was much improved on defense, pressuring the other Duke ball handlers all game. He also did well on offense, setting up Parker and Hood while making shots by himself. Amile Jefferson looked like a completely different player, even without his weight gain. He was much more confident on the court, scoring on multiple post moves. Jefferson appears to be the perfect compliment to the other starters. Cook and Jefferson really proved themselves over the other players, and appear ready for major minutes this season.
The final starting spot only became more cloudy Friday night, as Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon appear to be in a battle for the spot. I had assumed Sulaimon would take the spot, but Andre appeared to compliment the starters better by his court spacing. If Andre were to start, it looked like Rasheed Sulaimon could pick up his scoring as an explosive sixth man. This would allow Duke to have two of their three top scorers, Sulaimon Hood and Parker, on the court at all times without wearing them out. Regardless of who starts, both will likely see major minutes.
Outside of the backup shooting guard, the only other guaranteed player off the bench is Tyler Thornton. Thornton did not show anything spectacular at Countdown to Craziness but he played his normal steady game. He has and will continue to be a steady player and leader for Duke, and I would not expect that to change this season.
After the seven players who appear to have guaranteed minutes, it is extremely difficult to predict who else will play and for how long. After those 7 players, there will be 20-40 minutes that will be filled, likely by front court players. As much praise as Matt Jones has gotten, it will be difficult to see him beating out Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon for minutes. Duke already has a small team, so it will be tough to see Matt Jones getting extended minutes as a part of a three guard lineup. Matt Jones is extremely talented, but unfortunately may not have a role on this years team.
Duke will likely use or split the backup minutes for Hood and Parker between athletic forwards Alex Murphy and Semi Ojeleye. Semi greatly impressed me Friday night, with his athleticism and ability to finish around the rim. Alex Murphy played a steady game, but did nothing to stand out among Duke's great players. This is a complete flip from what I was thinking before, but I think Ojeleye may end up stealing these minutes from Alex Murphy. If Ojeleye can adjust to the college game, he could be a very valuable piece of Duke's team this season.
As a back up big man, it will come down to Marshall Plumlee and Josh Hairston. This is a decision between the steady but small, Hairston, and the erratic but tall, Plumlee. Duke's best case scenario is for Marshall Plumlee to take these minutes. He has true center size, can rebound well, and will be able to protect the rim. If he can slow his game down offensively and avoid being an offensive liability, look for Plumlee to take the minutes. If Plumlee can not fill the role, Josh Hairston will be waiting in the wings.
When it is all said and done, here is my early prediction for minutes played per game:
Rodney Hood: 30 minutes Starter
Jabari Parker: 28 minutes Starter
Quinn Cook: 28 minutes Starter
Amile Jefferson: 24 minutes Starter
Rasheed Sulaimon: 24 minutes
Andre Dawkins: 20 minutes Starter
Tyler Thornton: 16 minutes
Semi Ojeleye: 10 minutes
Marshall Plumlee: 10 minutes
Josh Hairston: 4 minutes
Alex Murphy: 4 minutes
Matt Jones: 2 minutes