#5 Duke Men's Basketball Preview

Duke Blue Devils

Overall Rank: #5
Conference Rank: #2 ACC
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2010-11: 32-5, 13-3
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (827-225 at Duke, 900-284 overall)

This is a very big team for Duke, but the talent in the backcourt will still make this a perimeter orientated squad…and a very, very good squad at that. Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are a couple of the guards who are ready to play a bigger role. Both are superb scorers who can knock down a lot of three-pointers. In fact, both shot around 43 percent from beyond the arc. Look for those two to rack up the points in a hurry this year. However, Curry may be asked to spend some time at the point. He is a pure scorer first and foremost, but there is not an experienced ball handler on the roster and it may take a little time for the newcomers to be ready to run the show.
Who’s Out:
It’s hard to lose Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving and get better. Smith only led the team with 20.6 points and 5.1 assists per game. He even tallied 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Along with Singler, who averaged 16.9 points and 6.8 rebounds, Smith provided the leadership for the Blue Devils last season. This is a younger team and a leader in the backcourt will need to emerge. Irving, when healthy, did pretty much what everybody thought he would do before splitting for the NBA after one season. Irving averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 assists, but that was in just 11 games due to an injury. The Blue Devils were a better team with him on the floor, but they also learned how to play without him.

Who’s In:
Austin Rivers is expected to be the next one and done player from Duke. Hopefully, for Duke fans and fans of quality basketball, Rivers will be able to play more than Irving did last season. Rivers is a great scorer from anywhere on the floor and he will have one great year in Durham, North Carolina before heading off to the NBA. The rest of the class has been overshadowed by Rivers, but they are a good group in their own right. As good as Rivers is, Quinn Cook may be the most important newcomer. The 6-0 point guard is the best true point guard on the team and if he is ready to play, Duke will have a distributor who can get the ball to all the scorers. Cook is not a bad shooter either and he certainly has the talent to be the point guard. The bigger issue is if he will be mentally ready to run the point in the ACC and if Coach Krzyzewski wants to put a player like Dawkins on the bench in favor of Cook. Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy are a couple of versatile forwards. Murphy, at 6-8 and 220 pounds, looks like a power forward, but he can play like a point guard. Marshall Plumlee, the third Plumlee brother on the team, will likely need to add strength before he will see any significant playing time.

Who to Watch:
Duke may not have a dominating force in the paint that can compete with the post players at schools like North Carolina, but they do have depth and experience. Mason Plumlee will step back into his starting role at the power forward spot. The 6-10 junior is not a great scorer, but he is a scoring threat at least. More importantly, he will hit the glass effectively. Brother Miles Plumlee, a part-time starter last season, will provide some quality depth and allow the Blue Devils to play big if they want to put him at the three spot or provide his brother with an experienced backup. Ryan Kelly, a 6-11 junior, quietly put together a solid sophomore season. Like the Plumlee’s, Kelly is not a big time scorer, but he is a big guy who can stretch out the defense with his shooting and clog up space in the paint.

Final Projection:
The frontcourt will not win games for Duke, but they should not lose too many games for them either. In the meantime, the backcourt will put up a ton of points and their ability to shoot should make life much easier for the big guys. The big question is at the point guard position, but Duke has plenty of options. If Curry is not capable and Cook is not ready, Dawkins could fill the void. And if it comes down to it, so could sophomore Tyler Thornton. Thornton did start a few games last year and played a bigger role than most expected he would due to the injury to Irving. No matter who runs the show and for how long, just about every team in the country would be happy to have Curry, Cook, Dawkins or Thornton running their offense.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Seth Curry, Junior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Andre Dawkins, Junior, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Austin Rivers, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Mason Plumlee, Junior, Forward, 7.2 points per game
Ryan Kelly, Junior, Forward, 6.6 points per game

Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#6 Austin Rivers
#25 Mason Plumlee
#73 Andre Dawkins
#88 Miles Plumlee

Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#1 Austin Rivers
#26 Michael Gbinije
#41 Quinn Cook
#43 Marshall Plumlee
#45 Alex Murphy

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