Duke needs length on the floor against Kentucky, so expect to see more of Amile Jefferson or Alex Murphy. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke vs. Kentucky
When: 9:30 p.m.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
TV/radio: ESPN/ WKIX-102.9 FM
One-sentence summary that links to longer explanation: Experience meets youth.
Projected starting lineups
No. 9 Duke (1-0)
G Tyler Thornton, Jr., 13.0 ppg 3.0 apg
G Seth Curry, Sr., 15.0 ppg, 1.0 apg
G Rasheed Sulaimon, Fr., 6.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
F Ryan Kelly, Sr., 8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F Mason Plumlee, Sr., 19.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg
No. 3 Kentucky (1-0)
G Archie Goodwin, Fr., 16.0 ppg, 2.0 apg
G Jarrod Polson, Jr., 10 ppg, 3.0 apg
F Alex Poythress, Fr., 8.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg
F Nerlens Noel, Fr., 4.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg
F Kyle Wiltjer, So., 19.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg
Player to watch
Ryan Kelly, senior, Duke
Kelly will match up against Kentucky’s Wiltjer, a 6-foot-10 sophomore. The rangy big men are similar, and Kelly will have to use the length of his 6-foot-11 frame to neutralize Wiltjer.
Kelly said he has been working on his consistency and aggressiveness, something the Blue Devils need from him to be successful. He was 0-of-7 from the floor in Duke’s final exhibition game, and he went 2-for-6 and scored eight points against Georgia State. Duke needs more from its second-best outside shooter.
***The length of 6-foot-8 forward Alex Murphy, on paper, matches up well against the length of 6-foot-7 forward Alex Poythress. However, after Mike Krzyzewski announced that Murphy would start in the preseason and started him in the two exhibition games, Murphy did not play at all in the season opener against Georgia State.
The explanation after the game as to why Murphy sat wasn't particularly revealing.
"We just didn't get to where Alex would play," Krzyzewski said when asked, adding that Murphy isn't hurt. "But Alex has got to be able to play."
I've heard that Murphy's problem is he doesn't play with confidence. So maybe Krzyzewski meant that he never felt Duke had a commanding enough lead in the 74-55 win to get Murphy on the floor. The Blue Devils first double digit lead came with three minutes to go before halftime, but the narrowest score difference in the second half was 12 points.
Confidence is a tricky thing. I actually asked Seth Curry at ACC media day how one goes about recovering their confidence if its been lost.
"Through practice and actually having some success helps you get your confidence back," Curry said. "You’ve got to keep trying and keep working and fight through the tough times. No matter where you’re at, you’re going to have some moments when you lose your confidence. You’ve just got to work through it and have a little bit of success."
So, to summarize: to re-gain confidence, a player must have some success. But a lack of success was probably what caused the confidence to dissipate in the first place. There's not an easy fix.
Krzyzewski is absolutely right in saying Murphy has to be able to play. Duke lacked length on the perimeter last year. Without Murphy, Rasheed Sulaimon, at 6-foot-4, is the biggest man Duke would start at the 3 position (6-foot-8 Amile Jefferson doesn't appear polished enough to start at this point). The other players in the backcourt don't have an overabundance of size either (6-foot-1 Quinn Cook, 6-foot-1 Tyler Thornton and 6-foot-4 Curry). The Blue Devils need Murphy. Or they need Jefferson to develop at a lightning fast pace.
***Duke has not been a strong rebounding team in its last two contests and was out-rebounded by Georgia State 33-31. The Blue Devils only collected six offensive rebounds for eight second-chance points.
For Duke to be successful, the offensive rebounding numbers need to rise. That's a clear weak spot for Kentucky, as the Wildcats allowed Maryland to collect 28 offensive rebounds last Friday, but the Terrapins only generated 19 second-chance points off those opportunities and lost 72-69.
***While at Duke, Krzyzewski is 4-1 against Kentucky. The two teams last played on Dec. 18, 2001, when the Blue Devils won in overtime, 95-92. Duke has won six of the past seven meetings between the two schools, and six out of the past eight games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less.
***Kentucky opened the season against Maryland in the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Turning around and facing Duke in Atlanta may have been overzealous scheduling for the fans, according to John Calipari.
“One thing I’ve learned, if we’re doing neutral site games, they can’t be back to back because our fans can’t, they need some time to get some money together to go to the next game," Calipari said. "They made a choice between New York; Maryland had more fans than us, I’ve never, since I’ve been here, have seen that."