#7 Duke Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Duke Blue Devils

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #7
Conference Rank: #3 ACC

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Duke finished second to Virginia during the regular season and failed to win the ACC Conference Tournament title thanks to Notre Dame. But when it mattered most, Coach Mike Krzyzewski had his team ready to play. Heading into the NCAA Tournament with a 29-4 record, the Blue Devils certainly deserved a #1 seed, but many expected they would bow out early like they seem to do. But this group was different. Not only did they win the national championship, but they only had a couple close calls along the way. They dominated San Diego State in the third round and crushed Gonzaga in the Elite Eight and Michigan State in the Final Four. Avoiding Kentucky was nice, but beating Wisconsin in the national championship is still impressive. But with four starters gone, Duke needs to reload.

2014-15 Record: 35-4, 15-3
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Coach Record: 945-251 at Duke, 1,018-310 overall

Who’s Out:
The starting backcourt duo of Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones was extremely difficult to contain. Cook averaged 15.3 points per game during his senior season and Jones added 11.8 points and 5.6 assists during his lone season in the collegiate ranks. Cook was supposed to be the backup point guard behind Jones last year, but those two ended up starting beside each other for all 39 games and Cook turned into one of the best shooters in the country. Justise Winslow who, like Jones, was a first round draft pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, shot pretty well from the wing too. He knocked down 41.8 percent of his attempts and averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals as a freshman. Another freshman, Jahlil Okafor, was the third overall pick in the draft after leading Duke with 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. It will be tough to replace the seven-footer. Rasheed Sulaimon was expected to finally live up to his potential, but after 20 games of coming in off of the bench, he was dismissed from the team.

Who’s In:
The Blue Devils bring in a great class that will fill plenty of those holes. Brandon Ingram is probably the best of a very talented bunch. The 6-9 wing is thin, but he has a great offensive game and could be the team’s top scorer from day one. Fellow five-star recruits Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard will add very talented options in the backcourt. Thornton is a pure point guard and will take over for Jones. Not many players can live up to Jones’ one and done season, but Thornton is one who can. Kennard is a great shooter and a big time scoring threat. He will do plenty of both off of the bench. The other key piece to this class is Chase Jeter, a 6-10, 240 pound center. He is not the bruiser that Okafor was and will need to continue to add strength, but he is an agile player in the paint with some nice post moves. The frontcourt also adds Antonio Vrankovic, Justin Robinson and Sean Obi. Obi is a wide-bodied forward who averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds with Rice two years ago as a freshman. Brennan Besser rounds out this very talented class.  

Who to Watch:
Amile Jefferson is the team’s lone returning starter and the team’s top returning scorer with 6.1 points per game. The 6-9 senior will play tough defense and hit the glass hard and that is what Duke needs him to do. It is also easy to forget that there was a lot of talent further down the bench. Sophomore Grayson Allen and junior Matt Jones were McDonald’s All-Americans too. They just weren’t quite on the same level as Okafor, Winslow and Jones last year. Allen averaged fewer than ten minutes per game, but he is a great talent and scored 16 points against Wisconsin in the national title game. Jones should again be a very dangerous shooter off of the bench, but he should see more minutes this time around. Marshall Plumlee is the tough interior play among the future NBA stars. The seven-footer will not play much, but he will play hard.

Final Projection:
On paper, this could look like a rebuilding year for Duke, but so was last year until the impressive class of freshmen arrived in Durham. And this year is the same. Could this be a team that finishes third or fourth in the tough ACC? Sure. Could they lose a few games here and there that it seems like they should win? Sure. But by March this could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country and there is no reason to believe they cannot cut down the nets once again.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Derryck Thornton, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Grayson Allen, Sophomore, Guard, 4.4 points per game
Brandon Ingram, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Amile Jefferson, Senior, Forward, 6.1 points per game
Chase Jeter, Freshman, Center, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.3 (6th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.3 (110, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 50.2 (3, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.2 (127, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (79, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.7 (30, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.9 (145, 6)
Rebound Margin: 5.4 (28, 4)
Assists Per Game: 15.1 (31, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.8 (37, 6)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#6 Brandon Ingram

Madness 2015 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#3 Brandon Ingram
#13 Derryck Thornton
#14 Chase Jeter
#21 Luke Kennard


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