Before Duke basketball's contest against N.C. State, we took to our Twitter account @dukebasketball to give fans the chance to ask any questions before tonight's critical ACC contest.
Off we go:
According to CBS' Gary Parrish, Lorenzo Brown will not play tonight "barring a miracle." The importance of that cannot be underestimated. The Wolfpack struggled at the end of the game against Miami without Brown and ultimately blew a lead, falling in the final seconds. Brown pushed the N.C. State offense against Duke in the first go around, tallying 13 assists as N.C. State won 84-76. Without Brown, the Wolpack are extremely thin—essentially only playing six guys—and won't be able to run and gun in the same way. Quinn Cook said Tuesday that the Blue Devils were preparing as if Brown will play. Duke just caught a huge break.
Notably, the Wolfpack struggled when Miami pressed, knowing they lacked a true ball handler. Will Duke do the same?
#AskChron Will MP3 and Murhpy get more go tonight with Hairston out?Can we expect Kelly back before the month's end?— Mark W Slav (@markwslav) February 7, 2013
Josh Hairston hasn't officially been ruled out yet, dealing with an infection in his arm, but Coach K said he's doubtful and it's certainly looking unlikely. So, who picks up the slack? First it has to be Amile Jefferson, who is the starting power forward and probably will have to be able to play at least 25-30 minutes, something he has done just three times all season.
The next two guys are Marshall Plumlee and Alex Murphy. Both have seen some more time lately, but both have their issues. Murphy is more suited to play the three and might struggle on defense and on the boards against N.C. State's big men, whether it's T.J. Warren, Richard Howell or C.J. Leslie. Murphy has shown the ability to score, but defense is the big issue for him. He can, however, stretch the defense in a way that Kelly did. MP3 doesn't have the offensive ability of Murphy but he is also 7-feet tall, and as is often said, you can't teach tall. With Hairston out, there could be more of MP3 and Mason Plumlee on the floor together, something that has only rarely been seen this year.
No Lorenzo Brown? This is Quinn Cook's time to shine. At 6-foot-5, Brown is an incredibly difficult matchup for Cook. Now the Wolfpack lack a true point guard. Instead of the story being how Brown, who pushes the ball up the court furiously and leads the ACC in assists, will dictate the pace of the game, that burden will be in Cook, who will find himself being guarded by Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis. Purvis has the skills to be a dynamic scorer but may struggle to guard a true point guard like Cook. Lewis, on the other hand, just isn't talented or quick enough to defend Cook. Are the Cameron Crazies ready for some more Quinn-sanity? If he can bring it, this is Duke's game.