Despite losing Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and the top overall pick in the NBA Draft, Kyrie Irving; it will be business as usual for Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils as they once again figure to be in the national title picture.
The arrival of McDonald's All-American Austin Rivers is one reason the Blue Devils don't figure to miss a beat. Rivers is a talented combo guard who has a terrific feel for the game and should immediately become Duke's best all-around scorer. Doc's son has NBA range on his jump shot but can also take defenders off the dribble and get to the rim. He joins a deep, talented backcourt that features several players capable of lighting it up from deep.
That includes Seth Curry who shot 43.5% from distance and Andre Dawkins who connected on 42.7% of his triple tries. Coach K will frequently use a three-guard lineup this season, and all three guys could see time together on the court with Curry and Rivers both able to run the offense. Dawkins will more than likely come off the bench and be one of the best scoring sixth men in the country.
More than likely, Tyler Thornton will get the nod in the starting lineup at point guard with McDonald's All-American Quinn Cook seeing his fair share of minutes as well. In other words, the Blue Devils have a ton of options with one of the deepest backcourts in the country.
Expect to hear a nauseating amount of, "Oh my god, Duke has the three Plumlee brothers on their team" stories. Mason and Miles will begin the year in the starting lineup. Mason is an athletic big who runs the floor, rebounds, and blocks shot but is still limited on the offensive end. Miles is more physical and will be asked to bang down low in the paint.
Marshall is the baby of the brothers and may find it hard to regularly crack the rotation with Ryan Kelly being the first big off the bench. Kelly is a face-up four and can stretch defenses with range out to the three-point line. Like his eldest brother, Marshall will give Duke a bigger body inside and someone who operates on the block. Josh Hairston is an undersized four but will bring energy and physicality off the bench when called upon.
Freshmen Alex Murphy and Michael Gbinije add more versatility to the forward position. Murphy has a smooth jump shot and is athletic enough to play the three, but he also has the size to play some power forward in a smaller lineup. Gbinije is an unselfish player who can play multiple positions. More than likely, these two freshmen will find playing time hard to come by but provide the Blue Devils with incredible depth and the option to put different types of lineups on the floor.
One through twelve, there might not be a deeper team in the country. With just one senior, they are a relatively young club but have the talent to be playing deep into March.
Player to Watch: Mason Plumlee, PF/C
I have grown a deep hatred for him ever since Plumlee destroyed my Marquette team at last season. With that being said, the word that keeps popping up with Mason is "potential." This is the year that Plumlee needs to become a legit low post threat and show a polished offensive game. If not, his NBA Draft stock will continue to slide as he will just be an athletic kid who can block shots and rebound, but doesn't possess the physicality to play at the next level.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/11 vs. Belmont
11/15 vs. Michigan State (at Madison Square Garden)
11/18 vs. Davidson
11/21 vs. Tennessee (Maui Invitational)
11/22 vs. Memphis/Michigan (Maui Invitational)
11/23 vs. UCLA/Chaminade/Kansas/Georgetown (Maui Invitational)