With the undefeated and No. 1 Blue Devils on a break for Christmas, The Blue Zone—The Chronicle's sports blog—took a moment for a position-by-position analysis of the team thus far.
Duke’s point guard play has perhaps been the biggest surprise in the early going. Hopes were high for sophomore Quinn Cook this season, but he has exceeded all expectations. Junior Tyler Thornton has gone from afterthought offensively to a key role player, while keeping up his patented stifling defense.
Coming into the 2012-13 season, the off-the-ball perimeter unit was one of the biggest question marks after Duke’s size deficiencies, and suspect chemistry on the wing caused it last season. Despite still predominately utilizing a three-guard starting lineup, the Blue Devil coaching staff has received upgraded play from the two and three positions, which is one of the key reasons that the squad has an unblemished record and sits atop of the rankings.
The Duke corps of forwards features perhaps the most talked-about Blue Devil, Mason Plumlee, who has vaulted himself from a solid post player into one of the nation’s premier big men. But Plumlee has not been the only asset in the frontcourt, as Ryan Kelly has been arguably the second-best player for head coach Mike Krzyzewski so far, and role players Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson have added contributions of their own. A strong group could get even stronger in the near future as well, with the return of Plumlee’s younger brother Marshall.