(4) Duke – 93
(13) UNC-W – 85
Marshall Plumlee: 29 min, 23 PTS, 8 REB, 3 BLK, 9-10 FG, 5-6 FT
Grayson Allen: 40 min, 23 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 4-12 FG, 15-17 FT
Brandon Ingram: 40 min, 20 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST, 7-12 FG, 5-10 FT
Plumlee is a fifth-year senior, Allen a sophomore and Ingram a freshman. Yet they all have something in common: Each time they step on the court during the NCAA Tournament, they are potentially playing their final game at Duke. (Allen remains a question mark, as he is likely a mid-to-late first round pick, but with Duke’s stacked recruiting class coming in I’m guessing his value will never be higher, so he’ll choose to enter the NBA Draft.)
In the same vein, at this point I would argue that these are Duke’s three-most important players. Never did I think I would write that about Marshall freaking Plumlee, but so it is. The Blue Devils have such ridiculously thin interior depth, and backup Chase Jeter has proven himself a risky alternative. On Thursday, Plumlee registered the best game of his career, a masterfully efficient 23 points on 10 shot attempts — of which he hit 9. He also knocked down 5 of 6 free throws.
Allen and Ingram arrived at their 20-plus point days through different methods. Brandon Ingram did about what you’d expect, hitting 7 of 12 shots and corralling his share of rebounds. Grayson Allen, on the other hand, had a terrible shooting day (4-12). His saving grace was his aggressiveness, as he made more free throws (15) than the entire UNC-Wilmington team combined (14).
Plumlee, Allen and Ingram combined for 66 of Duke’s 93 points (71%), 27 of the team’s 40 rebounds (68%), and 8 of the 11 assists (73%). It’s clear the direction Mike Krzyzewski is taking his squad this postseason: Isolate his two scorers and have them handle the ball as much as possible. To an extent Duke can make up for the depth they lack with the talent they possess 1-5; on any given night this team is capable of beating any team in the country.
Next up is Yale. I won’t know what the opening line is going to be until tomorrow, but I imagine it will be similar to today’s 9-point spread with UNC-Wilmington.
But looking ahead to Saturday, Duke has a very good chance of competing in another Sweet 16 this year.