Sunday, November 9, 2008

season preview: Duke

Season preview of everyone's favorite ACC team.

Media prediction: 2nd

ACC schedule:

Twice: Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Once: Boston College (A), Clemson (A), Georgia Tech (A), Miami (H), NC State (H), Virginia (H)

2007 All-ACC:

First team: G DeMarcus Nelson
Second team: None
Third team: F Kyle Singler, G Greg Paulus
Defensive: G DeMarcus Nelson
Freshman: F Kyle Singler
HM: None

(italics: returning)

Projected starters:

PG: Greg Paulus (Sr.)
SG: Jon Scheyer (Jr.)
SF: Gerald Henderson (Jr.)
PF: Kyle Singler (So.)
C: Brian Zoubek (Jr.)
F Olek Czyz (Fr.)
F David McClure (Sr.)
F Miles Plumlee (Fr.)
G Martynas Pocius (Jr.)
G Nolan Smith (So.)
F Lance Thomas (Jr.)
G Elliot Williams (Fr.)

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (28th year)

Duke, as usual, is Duke. Last year's leader in pretty much everything - points, rebounds, steals, minutes, you name it - was DeMarcus Nelson, and it's unlikely Duke will miss a beat. They can recruit whomever they like, plug them into the lineup, and earn them ACC Rookie of the Year, no problem. That was Kyle Singler last year, and while nobody in this year's class (strong by any standard but Duke's) will start off in the starting lineup, most if not all of them look like possibilities to get their share of time off the bench.

Duke's as deep as any team in the country, which will let them divvy up the minutes and keep people fresh. It's a luxury they may need, as they've had a tough time in recent years with injuries. They've put this depth to good use in the past; Jon Scheyer, for example, is new to the starting lineup but you'd hardly know it with all the minutes he's played. He and Paulus form a veteran backcourt that would be the envy of most teams, but it's Duke's frontcourt that will do the most damage. Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler are the leading returning scorers and rebounders. Coach K raves about Singler and he could be the guy to take charge of the team this year and make a play when Duke needs it.

The Blue Devils will also have Brian Zoubek in the starting lineup, and keeping him healthy will be a huge, huge key for the season. Zoubek is their tallest player, and the only other player above 6'8" is freshman Miles Plumlee, who will probably get his share of playing time because of this. If Zoubek's injury problems come back to bite him, Duke will have go to small most of the time, but with Zoubek's 7'1", 280 frame on the floor, it gives them an option that most ACC teams can't match.
Bottom line for Duke is the NCAAs. They'll get their 12 or 13 wins in the conference, maybe more. They'll have their showdowns with UNC, and probably another one at the end of the conference tournament. But Duke has flamed out of the NCAA tournament on the first weekend for two years in a row now. At Duke you're supposed to make the Final Four fairly regularly, and they haven't done that since 2004. They have a team capable of contending for a national championship, and people will start to wonder if they can't get past the first weekend again.

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