Season Preview: Duke
Last Season: 28-9, NCAA 3rd Round
Key Losses: Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Amile Jefferson
Key Additions: Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr., Marvin Bagley III
Last season’s Duke team was one of the most talented groups college basketball has seen in a long time. But the Blue Devils struggled to find consistency and live up to the seemingly impossible expectations of 2016-17, and were stunned by South Carolina in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. That Duke team certainly underperformed and while there are a lot of key departures, Coach Krzyzewski has once again reloaded.
Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard were elite scorers for the Blue Devils last season, and both were lottery picks in June’s NBA Draft. Harry Giles was another first round pick, and although he didn’t have gaudy numbers, he was the top ranked recruit coming out of high school two years ago. Those three, along with Amile Jefferson, are starters that Coach K will have to replace for 2017-18.
And with the #2 recruiting class coming in, it seems the Blue Devils won’t skip a beat heading into next season. Trevon Duval (PG), Gary Trent Jr. (SG), Wendell Carter Jr. (PF), and Marvin Bagley III (C) are the top ranked recruits at their respective positions, and all will see significant playing time for Coach K’s team. Marvin Bagley III can put on some highlight-reel type performances, with his size, length, and athleticism. He’s already a gifted two-way player, and a matchup nightmare on the offensive end. Duval will more than likely be the starting point guard this coming season, and if you are a fan of outstanding point guard play, be sure to watch the Blue Devils next season. Duval won’t blow you away with any highlight reel plays like Bagley, but he has an extremely high basketball IQ and has the comfort and confidence about him of a natural point guard. Once again, this Blue Devil team looks to be extremely fun to watch.
However, the biggest impact of Duke’s recruiting class is that Duval’s arrival allows senior Grayson Allen to move to shooting guard, which appears to be his best position. Last season, one of the few criticisms of the Duke team, was its lack of a true point guard with Allen playing there to allow Kennard to play the 2. Now, this Blue Devil team has a point guard in Duval, and a plethora of talent around him.
Duval’s play and adjustment to becoming a point guard at an elite college basketball program will play a big part in Duke’s success next season, but even more so is the maturity of Grayson Allen. Now a senior and back to his original position, Allen becomes the undoubted leader of this extremely young group. Allen has had issues on the court that take away from his ability to lead and were distractions for last year’s Duke team. If he can put those incidents behind him, his experience and passion can lead the Blue Devils to a deep run in March, possibly even to Coach K’s sixth national championship. Add in Bagley, if he can quickly grow accustomed to the college basketball stage, and Duke instantly becomes the favorite to win it all.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Trevon Duval
SG: Grayson Allen
SF: Gary Trent Jr.
PF: Wendell Carter Jr.
C: Marvin Bagley III