There is still an unfamiliar void in the paint for Duke without Shelden Williams patrolling the lane, but freshman Brian Zoubek is doing his part to make sure there is no dropoff.
Picking up a start in his first college game, Zoubek poured in 18 points, including an impressive 10-of-13 performance from the foul line as Duke blasted Columbia 86-43 in the season opener Sunday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium in first round action of the CBE Classic.
Zoubek's performance, combined with point guard Greg Paulus' insertion into the starting lineup after rehabilitating a foot injury most of preseason gave fans plenty to cheer about leaving the game.
Paulus played 19 minutes and handed out seven assists as Duke built a huge first half lead and was never threatened.
Columbia stayed close for the first five minutes, but Duke quickly turned an 11-10 lead into a 20-10 margin in just more than two minutes, and from that point Columbia didn't get closer than six points.
Duke played 10 players double figure minutes, and contributions were made up and down the roster.
Freshman guard Jon Scheyer buried four three pointers to post 12 points in his official Blue Devil debut, while Lance Thomas and DeMarcus Nelson also netted double figures.
Duke had a hot shooting night from the floor, but if you're looking for a weakness, the hot shooting did not translate to the free throw line.
The Blue Devils shot 58 percent from the field as a team, but were just 67 percent from the foul line on 36 attempts.
While Duke will want to improve the numbers from the charity stripe, Sunday night was a unfair fight as the Devils were playing with a more complete and healthy arsenal.
Though the return of Paulus meant Duke's primary ball handler was back on the court, sophomore big man Josh McRoberts still did his fair share of ball handling.
McRoberts scored just eight points, but he had three assists, including one very good look to Thomas at the basket from about 18 feet away on the perimeter.
Though the Blue Devils surrendered more transition baskets than Mike Krzyzewski liked, the halfcourt defense was overall very impressive.
The Lions scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the game and managed just 33 the rest of the way while shooting less than 30 percent from the floor.
Duke can probably expect a tougher challenge Monday night in the second round of the CBE Classic, as the Devils match up with Georgia Southern, who shellacked UC-Davis in the evening's first game and put up 116 points.
Monday's game is slated to tip at 7 p.m. and will be televised nationally by ESPN 2.