Duke Basketball: What to Expect from Marshall Plumlee

Dantzler SmithContributor IIIDecember 20, 2012

Oct 14, 2011; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Marshall Plumlee (40) makes one of his attempts during the slam dunk contest as part of the Countdown to Craziness event at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall Plumlee’s much anticipated turn was anticlimactic to say the least. Against Cornell, the 7’0” center subbed on for big brother Mason only to sprain his ankle after two minutes of play.

It was a frustratingly fleeting glimpse of what the youngest Plumlee is capable of bringing to the Blue Devils. In his sparse action, Marshall Plumlee recorded an excellent block for the first official stat of his college career. He stepped onto the court to cheers from the Duke faithful and left serenaded by the murmurs of concern sweeping through Cameron Indoor Stadium.

When Marshall Plumlee was injured prior to the season, Stephen Wiseman reported that Coach Krzyzewski lamented the loss by saying that Marshall was playing well enough to be the team’s sixth man.

That quote combined with having to wait through his redshirt year and the fact that Marshall is the younger brother of two successful Duke players, had Blue Devil fans ravenous with anticipation for MP3’s first official appearance. Marshall Plumlee was probably also chomping at the bit, having been forced to watch his teammates get along without him for the 18 months since his arrival at Duke.

In the aftermath of his two minute debut, both Plumlee and Duke fans are likely even more frustrated than before.

If you can draw a conclusion from a two minute appearance, it’s that the coaching staff has enough faith in Marshall Plumlee to make him one of the first players off the bench. He and Josh Hairston were the first subs used in the Cornell game. Going forward, Marshall Plumlee is certainly going to be a more capable backup center than the 6'7" Hairston or the 6'8" Amile Jefferson.

From there you can extrapolate out and wonder how much more effective Mason Plumlee could be if he is able to get more rest during games thanks to the return of his younger brother. So far Mason has gone 66 for 103 from the field on the season and has shot better than 50 percent in nine of ten games this year.

The danger is that all this building anticipation leads to over-hyping and backlash. Marshall Plumlee is, after all, just a freshman. In their first years at Duke, Mason Plumlee averaged only 3.7 points and Miles managed just 1.8 points.

Plus, Marshall Plumlee wasn’t an offensive guru in high school, averaging 11.5 points-per-game as a senior. And while the 7-footer will help Duke defensively and improve their atrocious rebounding, he’s far from a panacea.

It’s unlikely that Marshall will play tonight against Elon. That’s the simple misfortune of suffering an injury in the first of two games on back-to-back days. And the schedule doesn’t look to offer up any more blowouts like the one administered to Cornell.

Following Elon, Duke plays Santa Clara and Davidson. Santa Clara is a very solid team, having lost only twice all season and both games went to overtime. Davidson is always feisty and the game is in Charlotte instead of Cameron.

Whenever Duke fans next see Marshall Plumlee, it needs to be noted that he is a work in progress. Answers to Duke’s problems may include Marshall in the answer, but he alone isn’t the solution.

So tempered expectations are in order for the Blue Devil big man of the future. Lest you forget, Alex Murphy came into the season touted as the heir to Kyle Singler.