Duke's top-ranked recruiting class featured three five-star forwards -- all of whom were injured when the season began. They each missed every minute of the Blue Devils' first eight games. But two of them -- Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden -- returned Saturday and played in a 94-55 victory over Maine.
We're still awaiting his debut. But he's close, according to coach Mike Krzyzewski. So that's encouraging news for the team that was No. 1 in the preseason.
Here are three takeaways from Duke's victory over Maine:
1. Neither Tatum nor Bolden had memorable debuts
Tatum started. Bolden came off the bench. But neither did anything too special in his debut, which was understandable considering, you know, this was their debuts. Tatum, who suffered a foot injury in the preseason, took eight shots, missed six but still finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Bolden, who suffered a lower-leg injury in the preseason, got seven points and five rebounds but also committed three turnovers. To be clear, in time, they'll both be great -- especially Tatum, a 6-9 forward who projects as a top-five pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. But it's going to take some time. And the good news is that the Blue Devils have time because only one of their next five games -- Tuesday vs. Florida -- is against a top-125 KenPom team.
2. Luke Kennard is looking like Duke's MVP
Folks who write and talk about college basketball for a living, myself included, have spent so much time discussing Duke's injured freshmen that Kennard's incredible sophomore year has been somewhat overshadowed. But it shouldn't be overshadowed. The 6-6 guard has been consistently terrific and was at his best against Maine, which, in fairness, makes sense because Maine is dreadful. Either way, check this: Kennard scored a career-high 35 points on just 16 shots. He's now averaging a team-high 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
The debuts of Tatum and Bolden coincided with Allen and Jackson both being removed (temporarily) from Duke's rotation. Essentially, Krzyzewski opted to rest two of his starting guards against a team that's ranked 340th at KenPom and thus posed no threat to Duke's non-league home winning streak, which Matt Norlander wrote about earlier in the week. Allen is dealing with turf toe. Jackson has a foot injury. But each is expected to play Tuesday against Florida at Madison Square Garden.