They have gone through military training. They have scrimmaged each other. But the Blue Devils are hungry for real competition—the last time they saw the court, the second-seeded Blue Devils fell in their first game of the NCAA Tournament to 15th-seeded Lehigh.
The Blue Devils will have their first chance to take out those frustrations 2 p.m. Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium when they host Division II-opponent Western Washington for an exhibition game.
“We’re ready to play someone else,” associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “We’re tired of beating up on each other.”
Two players have taken the brunt of those beatings in the preseason, with Marshall Plumlee and Seth Curry sidelined for Saturday’s action. Plumlee is still out with a stress fracture in his left foot for at least another month.
Curry, who has a lower leg injury, is being kept out for precautionary reasons.
“If there’s a time to be conservative it’s early in the season,” Wojciechowski said. “Seth, if we really pushed it, could play tomorrow, but you have to weigh if that’s the best thing from the big picture perspective. In our judgement it’s not the right thing for the team.”
Curry’s absence from the starting lineup will open door for others to make an impression. Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon is expected to take his spot in the starting five. Redshirt freshman Alex Murphy will also likely make his first career start Saturday, while the two injuries could also mean more minutes for the team’s other first year, Amile Jefferson.
“It gives us the opportunity to throw these younger guys in the fire a little bit,” Wojciechowski said. “Hopefully they grow from the experience.
Sophomore guard Quinn Cook will get the first look at point guard while senior forwards Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee will lead the team’s frontcourt.
Although the parent’s weekend match is typically an opportunity for the team to get its first live action of the new season without much pressure, the Vikings are the reigning Division II champions and are coming off an impressive showing against Washington. Although they lost 88-78 to the Huskies, they gave a serious scare to their in-state rival, trailing by just two with less than five minutes to play. Center Chris Mitchell and guard John Allen led Western Washington with 17 points each.
“This gives us a more reaslitic opportunity to look at guys when they’re fresh, what our rotation would look like—look at different combinations, go through the experience of scouting a very good opponent and paying attention to a game plan,” Wojciechowski said.
This marks the fourth consecutive season that Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad will face off against the Division II NCAA tournament champions. Last year, the Blue Devils beat Bellarmine 87-62 in the same game, though they know the Vikings may give them more of a challenge.
“We’re anxious to see where we’re at,” Wojciechowski said. “We don’t have a great sense of it. I think after Saturday, we’ll have a better sense.”