The question posed above could wind up being key for Duke as they face off against UNC. The question asks if they will have an impact defensively, not an overall impact. Here is my breakdown of both Marshall Plumlee and Matt Jones:
Marshall Plumlee: I do believe that Marshall Plumlee will provide Duke with a big defensive presence down low in this one. The reason that I believe this isn’t because I feel that he is the answer to Duke’s problems, but he most definitely can be. I feel this simply because of one UNC player who goes by the name of Kennedy Meeks. Meeks is coming off of a career-high 23 points in the come from behind victory over FSU. Meeks, who stands at 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighs in at 290lbs (no typo), has been a big part of the recent success for UNC along with Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo. Meeks, as you can already tell, is a big player and that’s how he plays. He is a back to the basket scorer who relies on bullying the defender down low to get close to the tin. Meeks and Jefferson are the same height, yes, but there is a considerable difference in the weight category. If Meeks becomes too dominant down low, then Duke will have to throw in Marshall Plumlee, who would have around a 3 inch size advantage on Meeks, while Meeks would continue to have a weight advantage of about 30lbs. If Jefferson is getting beat on a consistent basis or loses energy quick do to the big frame of Meeks, then I firmly believe that Duke will have to rely on Marshall Plumlee for some important minutes.
Matt Jones: I do not believe that Matt Jones will make a big defensive contribution in this one against Carolina. My reasoning isn’t necessarily his fault. Matt has been playing very good defense when he has been penciled into the rotation, but Tyler Thornton has been playing even better at the starting position. This has been the best basketball that Thornton has played in his 4 years at Duke and as expected, it has been all through his defense. He has been able to knock down 3’s on a consistent basis, but his defense has been nothing short of stellar. The emphasis on defense and his incredible effort has landed Thornton a starting spot in almost every game as of late, as the starting point guard. Thornton has been doing all of the little things well on the defense end, locking up his defender when he has the ball, diving on the floor for 50/50 opportunities, jumping into passing lanes whenever he can (which have led to easy fast break points), and many more. This is not a knock on Jones in the least bit, but with the play of Marcus Paige as of late, Duke will want to have Thornton on him for the majority of the time. When Thornton needs a breather, then I believe that Jones will play well on defense, but not enough to change the tempo of the game or have a really big impact.