Game Info: Georgia State Panthers @ Duke Blue Devils – Durham, NC – 7pm (ET) – ESPNU/ESPN3
One of the most nerve-racking parts of a typical season, regardless of sport, is the beginning. You don’t know how your new players will perform, how much your old players will have improved/declined, and you don’t have the slightest clue how any of these players will gel with each other.
Duke fans won’t have to worry about going through those emotions…tonight, at least. Next week, Duke takes on the Kentucky Wildcats, the defending National Champions and arguably the best team in college basketball. That is a week away, though. Today is not a week away. Today is today and today the Blue Devils face a Georgia State team that you probably know nothing about. Earlier this week, Ball Durham highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the Georgia State Panthers, citing their lack of size, experience, and scoring options as reasons for why the Blue Devils shouldn’t have any particular struggles against GSU.
This game, however, isn’t as much about how the Panthers will play against the Blue Devils as much as it is about how the Blue Devils will play amongst the Blue Devils. There are four freshman on Duke’s roster (Alex Murphy, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, and Marshall Plumlee), all of whom we haven’t the slightest clue on how they’ll perform at the college level. Plumlee is still injured and likely won’t be available for a couple more weeks, but the other three will be available tonight. Can Murphy adequately run the wing and become the next Kyle Singler? Can Jefferson give Duke the consistently energetic force in the post that they’ve been missing for the last few years? Can Sulaimon fill in well enough that Duke won’t miss a red-shirted Andre Dawkins and a badly-injured Seth Curry? Those questions won’t be answered tonight. Two of them may not even be answered by the end of the season. Murphy, for instance, may not turn into a Kyle Singler-level player until his senior year. However, tonight is the beginning of their three promising careers, and there is nothing wrong with keeping those questions in your pocket for the moment.
The rest of the team has their fair share of questions, as well. We are all waiting on Mason Plumlee to make the leap to an First-Teams All-American level player. We are all waiting to see if Seth Curry can come back from injury sooner rather than later. We all want to see if Quinn Cook can become one of the best true point-guards in the history of Duke basketball. There is so much to figure out about this Duke team that is still in a transitional period, which is where they’ve been since losing Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler all at once.
We will figure out much more about this team over the next few weeks. As of right now, all we know is that the Blue Devils have a boatload of talent out there in Durham along with one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports. The odds are in their favor to put together a good team, and I am ecstatic to watch them grow together.
Duke fans, rejoice. Basketball is back!