Longtime Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski proved he could adapt to the "one-and-done" era of college basketball by riding a trio of one-and-doner's all the way to the national championship a season ago. While this year Coach K brings in another highly-touted class that features four five-star recruits, the sledding could prove a little tougher this time around. None of Duke's freshmen are considered as NBA-ready as their counterparts from a year ago, and the returning veterans are largely role players.
With that said, Duke enters the season ranked No. 5 in the AP poll, and seemingly for good reason. Most notably, Coach K has done a good job of retooling the roster as there are potential big-time newcomers at virtually every position. If these youngsters perform to projections, there should be no discernible holes for the Blue Devils this season.
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2015 Duke Key Losses and Additions
Duke lost four starters from a season ago: Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook. That is an incredible loss of talent for any program. The first three of those players were taken in the first round of the NBA Draft, while Cook is currently in the NBA Development League. Okafor, Winslow and Jones made up one of the all-time great freshman classes that actually lived up to the hype by winning a national championship. Can this year's class do likewise? It would seem difficult to duplicate, but the talent is certainly there to make a run.
Duke brings in seven freshmen this year as well as sophomore Sean Obi, a transfer from Rice. The big names in this year's Duke recruiting class are guard/forward Brandon Ingram, point guard Derryck Thornton and forward/center Chase Jeter.
Ingram is a 6-foot-8 small forward that can knock down shots from range. He comes in with the reputation of having limitless potential, but observers have noted he has a thin frame and will need to get stronger to excel in the ACC gauntlet. He will be expected to play the role filled by Winslow when he played the three last season.
Thornton is the only true point guard on Duke's roster, which made it a major coup when the California native decided to re-classify and enroll at Duke a year early. Jeter is expected to be Duke's No. 1 post option offensively. He excels with his back to the basket and is also a tenacious rebounder, according to recruiting scouting reports.
2015 Duke Backcourt
Thornton will be asked to play a huge role at the point for Duke, but the good news he has a bevy of perimeter weapons to assist. Grayson Allen played limited minutes last year as a freshman, but whenever given a chance he seemed to always produce. He's a good shooter with an aggressive edge that served the Blue Devils well a season ago, particularly in the NCAA title game against Wisconsin.
Matt Jones started 14 games in the Duke backcourt last season and averaged 6.0 points per game. The junior's hard-nosed defense and hustle proved indispensable to the Blue Devils during their championship run. However, this year given the talent level of the newcomers, Jones will likely be asked to fill the sixth-man role for Duke.
On the wings, Duke will feature Ingram and fellow freshman Luke Kennard. Ingram has been touted as a potential ACC Newcomer of the Year by several preseason publications, while Kennard is a sweet-shooting lefty that should be able to stretch defenses.
2015 Kentucky Frontcourt
Seniors Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson are team leaders that aren't afraid to do the dirty work for the Blue Devils. Neither has shown they can be consistently effective at a high-level, but their willingness and leadership is just what Duke needs to ease the transition of the talented newcomers.
Jefferson started 26 games last season but will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Jeter. The 6-foot-10 freshman center will be expected to make a big contribution immediately as the Blue Devils offensive anchor down low.
Duke will also get the services in the frontcourt of Obi, who sat out last season after transferring from Rice. A 6-foot-9 native of Nigeria, Obi averaged 11.4 points per game and led Conference USA in rebounding with 9.3 per game as a freshman for the Owls.
2015 Duke Future Odds
Duke may be just No. 5 in the AP poll to start the season, but Vegas oddsmakers have the Blue Devils pegged as the 17/2 second-choice behind Kentucky to cut down the nets in Houston in early April.
2015 Duke Blue Devils Predictions and NCAA Basketball Picks
Can Coach K do it again? Despite his legendary status, it would seem highly unlikely the Blue Devils can catch lightning in a bottle with a second straight freshman class that transcends the sport such as last year's did. With that said, the talent is certainly there, and if anyone can get his players to reach their potential quickly it's Coach K. Duke is certainly a Final Four contender, but with the top of the polls filled by teams with talent and experience (Maryland, Kansas, North Carolina), a second-straight national championship would seem unlikely.
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