Duke enters the season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll and as the clear-cut favorite to win the National Championship. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has built a unit with a seemingly ideal blend of talented youth and proven experience. The hype machine has already tabbed this year's freshman class in Durham as perhaps the most talented ever assembled. It joins a returning group that includes National Player of the Year candidate Grayson Allen and senior forward Amile Jefferson, who averaged a double-double a season ago (11.4 PPG, 10.3 RPG) while patrolling the middle. Duke and coach K look locked and loaded for a possible third national title this decade.
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2016 Duke Key Losses and Additions
It's not technically an addition, but Allen's decision to forego the NBA for another year on Tobacco Road was a huge get for Duke. The 6-foot-5 guard averaged a team-high 21.6 PPG while shooting 46.6 percent overall from the field and 41.7 percent from 3-point distance a season ago.
The most notable departure from last year's Duke team, which finished fifth in the ACC before losing in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, were Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee. Ingram went second in the NBA draft after averaging 17.3 PPG in his one season at Duke, while Plumlee-who is a reserve with the Knicks-contributed 8.3 PPG and 8.6 RPG a season ago.
That's some notable production lost, but reinforcements have arrived. Duke's heralded freshman class includes a pair of newcomers that have received All-America consideration from various publications based off their big-time reputations. Harry Giles is a 6-foot-10 power forward from Winston-Salem many considered the best player in this year's entire class before suffering a torn ACL last November. He is slated to make his Duke debut later this month. When healthy, he's a dominant rebounder and versatile scorer. The other Duke freshman receiving All-America love is Jayson Tatum. The 6-foot-8 wing from St. Louis is a natural scorer who figures as Duke's No. 2 offensive option behind Allen.
Duke's other notable freshman are Frank Jackson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Alpine, Utah; and Marques Bolden, a 6-foot-11 center from Desoto, Texas.
2016 Duke Outlook
The Blue Devils learned a season ago the importance of staying healthy as any and all championship hopes were torpedoed when Jefferson was lost for the season with a foot injury. With the mass of talent on this roster, injuries would seem the one thing capable of derailing this train. Unfortunately, health has already been an issue. In addition to the Giles injury, Tatum and Bolden are both dealing with injuries that could force them to miss some early-season games.
It's never a good time for injuries, but this is team-building time and having three important freshman out will surely delay this team's development a bit. But once all the pieces are in place, look out.
2016 Duke Futures Odds
Bovada has installed the Blue Devils at +375 to cut down the nets the first week of April in Phoenix. That is nearly half the price of co-second choices Kansas and Kentucky (+700).
2016 Duke Blue Devils Predictions and NCAA Basketball Picks
After begrudgingly giving into the "one-and-done" era of college basketball, Coach K seems to have perfected the model. He led a cast of freshman future NBAers to the National Championship just two seasons ago when finally embracing the system, and reports are this incoming class could be even more talented than that group. Add to that to a solid core of proven veterans and you have the making of another special season on Tobacco Road.
At +375, Duke is one the heaviest preseason favorites in recent memory in college basketball. It would seem a dubious strategy to back so short a price, especially given the volatile nature of "March Madness" and college basketball as a whole. Duke's going to be a fun watch, but invest your money elsewhere.
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