Duke might not win the Battle 4 Atlantis, but regardless of the outcome this weekend, the Blue Devils appear to be the team to beat in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
At least for the moment.
Tested for 40 minutes against a Virginia Commonwealth team only two years removed from an appearance in the Final Four, Duke found a way to survive with a 67-58 victory over the Rams on Friday night..
A lot of the hype in the ACC is on North Carolina State, but Duke is 5-0 at the moment and its last two wins are against quality opponents. The Blue Devils knocked off Minnesota in the opening round of this tourney on Thursday night.
Against the Rams, it was Mason Plumlee, a potential ACC and national player of the year candidate, who turned in a solid performance.
Plumlee scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, a nice follow-up to his 20-point, 17-rebound effort against the Golden Gophers, who can’t be ruled out as a potential contender for the Big Ten championship.
Plumlee was expected to be a go-to guy for the Blue Devils this year, and through the first five games, he has filled that role nicely. The senior has scored at least 17 points in every game and has shot better than 50 percent in every game.
He has also been tough on the boards, grabbing 10 or more rebounds three times.
It is the consistency that he has played with early on that has made him so valuable to the Blue Devils, who are the favorites in the ACC as long as Plumlee continues to rise to the occasion.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at email@example.com