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Duke beats Minnesota, becomes the nation’s No. 1 team?

Nov 22, 2012, 6:29 PM EDT

Mason Plumlee, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins

The knock on Duke coming into the season was that Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry were quality pieces, but that they weren’t be good enough to be the feature players on a team that would legitimately be able to contend for a national title.

The two seniors are making that line of thinking seem foolish early on this season.

Just nine days after No.5 Duke knocked off Kentucky in the Champions Classic behind 41 combined points from Curry and Plumlee, the Blue Devils rolled over Minnesota 89-71 in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis out in the Bahamas.

Curry had 25. Plumlee had 20 and added 17 boards and three assists. Perhaps most importantly for Plumlee, he was 8-10 from the charity stripe. That’s been the place he’s struggled the most throughout his career.

It’s too early to make the claim that Duke is “for real”. The Kentucky team that they beat is incredibly young and struggled to handle Morehead State in Rupp Arena. This Minnesota team was predicted by almost everyone to be a potential tournament team, but that was with the understanding that Trevor Mbakwe would be back to 100%. He’s not, and the Gophers don’t have the depth to overcome an all-american turning into a role player.

In other words, I’m not yet convinced that Duke is worlds better than we thought, and I’m definitely not ready to drink whatever it is Ken Pomeroy cracked open on Thanksgiving simply because Duke beating Kentucky in November isn’t much more impressive than Indiana beating Georgetown. And I also don’t think that beating down a Minnesota team that is playing a long way from 100% on a night they happen to shoot 8-10 from three is the best game to base your opinion of this team around.

I will say this, however: after watching Duke through the first two weeks of the season, I’m really glad that I wrote their preview with the theme that the Blue Devils are better than they were given credit for.

The Blue Devils get VCU (*not Missouri, my bad) tomorrow. If all goes to plan, they’ll get Louisville in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

If Duke wins both of those games, than I may be asking Kenpom to pour me a glass.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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