Sunday, December 15, 2013
season preview: Duke
Media prediction: 1st of 15
Record: 30-6 (14-4); ACC 2nd seed
Postseason: NCAA 2 seed; lost in Elite Eight
KenPom: 6th of 347
Returning scoring: 42.9%
Returning rebounding: 46.4%
Returning assists: 68.5%
1st team: C Mason Plumlee
2nd team: G Seth Curry
3rd team: G Quinn Cook
HM: F Ryan Kelly
Rookie: G Rasheed Sulaimon
(Italics indicate departed player.)
PG: Quinn Cook (Jr.)
SG: Tyler Thornton (Sr.)
F: Rodney Hood (rSo.)
F: Jabari Parker (Fr.)
F: Amile Jefferson (So.)
G Rasheed Sulaimon (So.)
F Josh Hairston (Sr.)
G Andre Dawkins (5Sr.)
G Matt Jones (Fr.)
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (34th season)
Twice: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Syracuse, Wake Forest
Once: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, Miami, NC State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Early returns on the season suggest this may be an off year for Duke, by which I mean they might be as low as a 3 or 4 seed in the NCAAs. Horrors. Perhaps even lower, depending on how they do in the ACC season, as their two best chances for a glamor win slipped them by, with losses to Kansas and Arizona early on.
Duke's roster took a lot of turnover during the offseason, losing three top players to graduation. There are still some seniors here, but the reins have been handed to junior point guard Quinn Cook, a savvy player with a well-developed game. Cook has a good shot and a sky-high assist rate and is every bit the player his recruiting rankings expected him to be.
Cook has some veteran help in the backcourt; though Seth Curry is finally out the door, two more seniors step up to take his place. These seniors are here to shoot threes. Tyler Thornton hardly shoots at all, actually, though when he does shoot from long-distance he's pretty decent. His defense is what's earning him 20+ minutes a game, though. Andre Dawkins is back on the team after taking a year off of basketball, and his three-point shot hasn't left him. Likely due to conditioning issues he's only played 11 or so minutes a game, but he's good for a little instant heat off the bench.
Rounding out the backcourt are freshman Matt Jones, in for some spot minutes at times, and Rasheed Sulaimon. Sulaimon had a good season as a freshman last year but has managed to play his way into K's doghouse, and didn't unglue his butt from the bench in Duke's win over Michigan.
Duke lacks a traditional center now that Mason Plumlee has moved on and Marshall Plumlee seems unable to get off the bench. The youngest Plumlee is getting walk-on minutes only, and Duke depends on a fairly deep set of 6'8"-ish athletic forwards for backcourt minutes. Jabari Parker is showing why he was such an elite recruit; he's become Duke's go-to guy with an astounding 22.1 ppg this season, and 7.8 rebounds as well. Parker dominates the ball, but he ought to; he can score from anywhere at all, and he's also a high-level defender, too.
The Blue Devils also get plenty of quality minutes from Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, another deadeye shooter from anywhere you please. Hood is averaging 19 points a game, and while he's not the rebounder or defender Parker is, he's actually shooting a higher percentage from both inside and outside the arc. Amile Jefferson is proving to be a nice complementary piece, missing only seven of his thirty shots this year (though you can foul him without fear; he's a rotten free-throw shooter.) These guys are pushing senior Josh Hairston to the sideline; Hairston has started three games and plays about 14 minutes a game, but barely registers on the stat sheet.
No question that Duke can score; the leading trio of Parker, Hood, and Cook are combining for 56 points a game. And the worst part of it is, any one of them can score inside or out. Outside of Jefferson, this is a really good free-throw shooting team, too. However, their defense is up and down. They've been dominant, but only in patches. Probably their worst moment: getting outscored by seven in the second half against Vermont and winning that game by just one point. The Catamounts scored 90 points in only 65 possessions. (Vermont, by the way, is 3-6, with wins over Siena, Illinois State, and D-II Sonoma State.)
So there's no reason they shouldn't go through the ACC like a knife through butter, except that there'll be a few nights here and there where the defense fails them. The tournament committee will probably penalize them a touch, though, for not having any OOC games on the road and (so far) only having a win over Alabama in the preseason NIT to burnish their away-from-home resume. They'll have a crack at UCLA later this month, and the outcome could move them up or down a seed. They're a strong contender for the ACC title, but they'll need to improve their defense in order to make a deep NCAA run.