50 Minutes to Success

[private]

The success of the 2008 – 2009 Duke basketball season will be dependent upon 50 minutes. That is 50 minutes per game as in 40 minutes per game at the Center position and 10 minutes per game at the Power Forward position. Duke is solid on the perimeter and perimeter players will pace the team with an emphasis on pressure defense, transition basketball, and 3-point shooting. If the front court can consistently contribute with points, solid interior defense, rebounding, and shot blocking, this Duke team has the potential to be special.

Kyle Singler will play 30 minutes per game at Power Forward, but the other 10 minutes per game will be up for grabs. All 40 minutes of playing time at Center are available. There are five players competing for those 50 minutes: Lance Thomas (6-8, 220), Brian Zoubek (7-1, 260), Dave McClure (6-6, 200), Olek Czyz (6-7 240), and Miles Plumlee (6-10, 230). The competition for playing time should be fierce.

Last season, front court players, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Taylor King, and Dave McClure combined to contribute 14.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 47.6 minutes per game. Starting Power Forward Kyle Singler averaged 13.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and .7 blocks in 28.6 minutes per game.  All together, Duke’s front court contributed 27.9 points, 16.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 76.2 minutes per game.

In contrast, out in Lawrence, Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, and Cole Aldrich combined for 33.9 points, 19.9 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks in 75 minutes per game for national champion Kansas.  Over in Chapel Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, and Alex Stepheson combined for 35.3 points, 19.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in 68.9 minutes per game.

This season’s team must achieve more production, from those approximately 50 minutes of playing time, to complement Kyle Singler’s efforts. The key to success is having consistent production across all five positions. For the last two years, Duke has at times played four on five on the offensive end of the court. For the first two years of their careers, Lance Thomas (63 games) has averaged 4.15 points and 2.9 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game, while Brian Zoubek (57 games) has averaged 3.45 points and 2.8 rebounds in 8.9 minutes per game. Rising Senior Dave McClure’s numbers are 2.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.6 minutes per game over 88 games.

The efforts of the aforementioned three players have been hampered by injury and sickness. Brian Zoubek has had surgery on his foot twice, Dave McClure has undergone surgery on both knees, and Lance Thomas has suffered from severe ankle sprains and a respiratory infection. If they can achieve and maintain good health, these three veterans have the potential to be much improved this season.

Two new front court players will suit up for the Blue Devils this season. Miles Plumlee and Olek Czyz are arriving in Durham as the # 40 and # 92 ranked players, respectively, in the Class of 2008, according to Scout.com. Plumlee, at 6-10 230, is noted to be a skilled player on both ends of the court, while Olek Czyz, 6-7 240, is a raw talent with very good athleticism including a 40″ vertical. Adjusting to Duke’s defensive scheme will be the major obstacle to playing time for these two freshmen. If they can learn to play Duke Defense, they should challenge their upper class teammates for playing time.  Unquestionably, they will add depth to Duke’s front court.

With five players competing for those 50 minutes of available playing time, Duke is in good shape to see more points, rebounds, and blocked shots produced. With added production to a team that averaged 83.2 points per game and achieved a 28-6 record last season, the Duke Blue Devils will achieve much more success in the 2008 – 2009 season.[/private]