Duke Basketball Preview: #8
Overall Rank: #8
Conference Rank: #2 Atlantic Coast Conference
2008-09: 30-7, 11-5
2008-09 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (760-215 at Duke, 833-274 overall)
Duke continues to do what Duke has been doing lately. They finish in the top two in the Atlantic Coast Conference, beat the teams they should beat and lose a couple times to North Carolina. Then they make a run in the conference tournament before bowing out earlier than Blue Devil fans hope in the NCAA Tournament. Expect more of the same this time around.
Key Losses: G Gerald Henderson, F David McClure, G Greg Paulus, G Elliot Williams
The lack of guards in this recruiting class is painful. Andre Dawkins is not the highly touted recruit one would expect to step foot in Cameron Indoor Stadium and make a huge impact. He will have to play some minutes due to lack of options, but he will not be a game changer as a freshman. Power forwards Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee are the highly touted recruits. Kelly is a big man at 6-10 and 220 pounds, but he also is a superb outside shooter who can stretch out the defense. Plumlee is a skilled player, but he might need some time to add some strength before he can effectively battle under the basket in the ACC.
Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer are the only two returning guards who will make an impact. Unfortunately, neither are point guards. Smith can try, but he almost committed as many turnovers last year as he did assists. While Smith could turn into a decent scorer and is not a bad defender, he is not a point guard. Neither is Scheyer, but at least he can take care of the ball. Last season Scheyer tallied 14.9 points, 2.8 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals per contest. He may not be as effective of a scorer with the ball in his hands, but if Smith does not get his act together, Coach Krzyzewski will not have much choice.
The strength and depth of this team has moved into the frontcourt. Kyle Singler can finally play at the small forward spot and that leaves Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee and Lance Thomas to battle it out with the newcomers for playing time under the basket. Zoubek will be the man in the paint after starting 17 games there last season. The 7-1 senior is a massive presence under the basket and, while his numbers may not reflect it, he is an important player on this team. Miles Plumlee, brother of incoming freshman Mason, will at least add some depth, but it is Thomas who could be in for a surprisingly decent senior season if given the opportunity.
Who to Watch:
Singler is the star of this team after averaging 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists during his sophomore campaign. Singler was forced to spend most of his time at the power forward position last year due to lack of frontcourt options. The exact opposite is true this year and the 6-8 junior could play some shooting guard in a pinch. But no matter where he plays, Singler has proven that he can score and do everything his team needs him to do to win.
The lack of depth on the perimeter could be a huge problem for the Blue Devils. After Smith and Scheyer, the pickings are slim. Singler is athletic enough to play the two guard spot and this would suddenly turn into a team that is very large, athletic and has a surprising amount of outside shooting. There are not many shooting guards out there that Singler cannot shoot over. But Scheyer and Singler cannot play 40 minutes per game without tired legs in March. This might be a great team on any given day, but they will rely on the outside shot too much and get tired by the end of the year. That means another early NCAA exit for Duke.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jon Scheyer, Senior, Guard, 14.9 points per game
Nolan Smith, Junior, Guard, 8.4 points per game
Lance Thomas, Senior, Forward, 5.3 points per game
Kyle Singler, Junior, Forward, 16.5 points per game
Brian Zoubek, Senior, Center, 4.1 points per game
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