Duke vs. Minnesota: Keys to a Blue Devils Victory in Battle 4 Atlantis Opener

Jon ReidCorrespondent IINovember 22, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 13:  Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts with Seth Curry #30 after drawing a foul on a basket against the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2012 State Farm Champions Classic at Georgia Dome on November 13, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Three games into the season and the Duke Blue Devils have already flexed their muscle with a big win over the defending champion University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Now they'll head to the Bahamas to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis, with a chance to really show just how strong they are this season.

In order for that to happen, however, they'll have to take care of business in their opening contest against Tubby Smith's Minnesota Golden Gophers.

While they may not be ranked at the moment, the Golden Gophers aren't a team to take lightly.

They have a 4-0 record to start the season (albeit all four of those games were fairly easy matchups), and are returning four of their top six scorers from last year, including their best players Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams Jr.

Both Andre and Austin Hollins are also returning for Tubby Smith's squad, and his depth and experience allow him to deploy a very balanced attack.

Not one of his players has averaged more than 28 minutes per game (by comparison, Duke has four players that play over 29 minutes per game), and four Golden Gophers average between nine and 14.5 points per game.

Playing a balanced defensive game is going to be crucial for Duke, as a hole in the defense may be exploited anywhere on the court.

Rebounding will also be important for Duke.

Mason Plumlee will have to continue to pull down rebounds and the Devils will need Ryan Kelly to step up on the glass. Coming into this game, the Blue Devils are 257th in rebounds per game, while the Golden Gophers are 19th in that category.

Guard play will also be critical in this afternoon's matchup, with the Hollins brothers averaging nearly 24 points per game between them so far this season.

With the amount of talent and experience on Duke's roster, they should be able to move on to the next round in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

That, however, won't happen if they allow Minnesota to dominate on the glass and have a weak link or two on the defensive end.

Final Prediction: Duke 73, Minnesota 65