Night Line: Mason Plumlee’s Post Dominance Keying Duke’s Phenomenal Start

Posted by EJacoby on November 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Plenty of elite teams have impressed in the opening month of this season, but Duke is in a tier by itself when it comes to a complete resume. After exacting revenge on Ohio State from last season’s drubbing with a 73-68 victory over the Buckeyes on Wednesday night, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has now defeated three top-five teams in November. That doesn’t even include victories over Minnesota and VCU, as well, two other likely NCAA Tournament squads. In Wednesday’s win, Duke trailed by eight points at halftime to a tougher-looking Buckeyes squad while itself looking fatigued, and it needed a significant second half spark to change the tone of the game. That’s where it turned to Mason Plumlee, who turned momentum back on Duke’s side with two monster alley-oops from point guard Quinn Cook. Blue Devil fans have waited three long years for Plumlee to become a dominant post force who successfully harnessed all of his athletic potential, and tonight’s 21-point, 17-rebound effort in a comeback win over an elite opponent shows just how far the big man has come.

Mason Plumlee has Duke soaring up the rankings through victories over elite opponents (AP Photo)

We knew Duke had the depth, shooting, and coaching to remain an ACC contender this season, but Plumlee’s transformation into a dominant, All America-caliber forward gives the team a chance to reach greater heights than almost anyone imagined. Through seven games, the 6’10” senior is now averaging 19.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game on 65% shooting from the field; all good for top-five rankings in the ACC. But what’s most astonishing about Plumlee’s stats is his free throw percentage, which at 79% is an exponential improvement over his career 50% shooting coming into this season. Never mind the massive 8.8 PPG  jump; an increase of 30 points on a go-to player’s free throw percentage is enough to change the entire dynamic of an offense. As Jay Bilas consistently pointed out during Wednesday’s ESPN broadcast, Plumlee plays with improved aggressiveness near the basket this season now that he’s not afraid to get fouled. The senior converted 9-12 freebies tonight while also producing a game-high in scoring and rebounding.

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Jared Sullinger’s Medical Red Flags Call Into Question His Draft Status

Posted by EJacoby on June 19th, 2012

Jared Sullinger was one of college basketball’s biggest stars the past two seasons, entering Ohio State as the #2 consensus player in his high school class and consequently producing at an elite level for the Buckeyes from day one. The 6’9″ fundamental machine averaged over 17 PPG and 9 RPG in back-to-back seasons, becoming a First Team All-American in both years. He led OSU to a #1 seed and Sweet Sixteen appearance in his freshman year before igniting the Buckeyes even further in 2011-12 — all the way to the Final Four. Yet Sullinger saw his draft stock slowly drop throughout college, from a potential #1 pick to just borderline top 10 status as of early June’s Draft Combine, due to concerns about his NBA upside stemming from limited athleticism. He failed to impress during Combine measurements and testing, finishing dead last of 52 competitors in the agility and sprint drills while showing up with 10.7% body fat.

Sullinger is now swarmed with obstacles in preparation of the NBA draft (Reuters photo/M. Sullivan)

But things got much worse on Monday, after Sullinger was reportedly red flagged by NBA doctors who have serious concerns about a long term back injury. Team doctors worry that “back issues could shorten his NBA career” and some medical staffs “advised their teams not to draft him in the first round,” according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. This news will make it even more challenging for Sullinger’s professional prospects — somehow, this dominant college big man with consistent professional intrigue may not even get selected as a first round NBA pick. Could Sullinger wind up becoming a late steal (think: DeJuan Blair), or should concerns about his physical condition validate passing on him in this deep draft?

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