2014 Duke Blue Devils Predictions and NCAA Basketball Futures Odds
by Aaron Smith - 11/10/2014
Nobody is about to proclaim that Duke's basketball program is in any kind of trouble, but the Blue Devils have suffered a couple huge upsets in their first game of the NCAA Tournament in the past four years. In the 2011-12 season, Duke was ranked as a No. 2 seed and lost to Lehigh. Last year, Duke was a No. 3 seed and lost to the Mercer Bears in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament. Those are definitely humiliating losses for a program of Duke's stature.
It's important to keep in mind that Duke has suffered a lot from losing key players to the NBA too quickly and having an inexperienced team. In both of those years that they dropped their first game in the NCAA Tournament, Duke was being led by freshman. It might be a bit scary to have a lot of freshmen ruling the roost again this year, but it has to help Duke fans feel a little better that Duke easily had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation this year.
Duke's primary problem last year was on the defensive end, and Coach Mike Krzyzewski knows it. The youngsters of this class must buy in on the defensive end of the floor if Duke is going to rise back to the top.
2014 Duke Key Losses & Additions
Jabari Parker was amazing in his only season at Duke. His 19.1 points per game were the fourth most for a freshman in ACC history. Parker also led the team in rebounding. Parker's array of offensive moves was nothing short of amazing. He would have been a huge contributor moving forward, but he was selected second in the NBA Draft, and he certainly made the best choice for himself by leaving. Rodney Hood was only the fourth transfer in the Coach K era at Duke, and he had a solid season. Hood put up 16.1 points per game and shot 42 percent from beyond the arc. Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins, and Josh Hairston are all gone as well. Those three weren't the most talented players on the team, but they all were great team players and played with toughness and aggression.
Tyus Jones is the perfect point guard for the Duke Blue Devils. He is a high-IQ kind of player who knows when to pass and when to shoot it himself. Jones is a really well-rounded player who should be an asset on both ends of the floor. Jahlil Okafor was the No. 1 recruit in the country by a large margin. Expectations are sky high for Okafor. This is the most highly-touted big man Coach K has had in many years. Several NBA Draft sites believe he'll be the No. 1 draft choice in the 2015 NBA Draft. Okafor has all the tools. He has great hands for a big man, and he knows how to get position in the post. Okafor has an amazing 7-foot-4 wingspan. His shooting touch is much better than you would think, and he should be a good post defender. Justise Winslow is a quick player who will play on the wing for Duke. Winslow has the ability to be a great defender on the wing, and Duke has needed that for a long time. His maturity has impressed the coaching staff.
2014 Duke Backcourt
Jones will start at the point guard, and Quinn Cook will slide into the shooting guard spot. Jones is a natural point guard, and Cook is versatile enough to play at either spot. Jones is a guy who the coaching staff expects huge things from right away. Cook has an amazing 2.64 assist-to-turnover ratio, so he makes great decisions with the ball. Cook's shot has been inconsistent, and he'll need to improve that this year. Rasheed Sulaimon will be the third guard to start for the Blue Devils this year. Sulaimon is an interesting player because he was amazing in 2013 as a freshman, but he took a step backward in 2014 as a sophomore. He was out shape early last year, and that ended up taking him out of the lineup for a while. His talent level makes him an important part of this team, but he'll need to be ready from the start. Winslow will get some time at the two and three spots right away. Winslow is the type of guy who changes a game without ever needing to score a point. Grayson Allen doesn't get quite the publicity of the other freshman, but he deserves attention. Allen is a terrific athlete who is also an amazing long-range shooter. He'll get minutes right away.
2014 Duke Frontcourt
Okafor will be the guy Duke plays through. The coaching staff essentially said in the offseason that they must play through Okafor because he is simply that good. He'll command tons of attention from defenses, and he's more than capable of kicking it out to open teammates. He'll be a special player. Amile Jefferson will start at the power forward spot. Jefferson played out of position last year because Duke didn't have anyone else. Now that they have Okafor, Jefferson can play a more natural role for him. He's great on the glass, and he's a really good athlete who can play inside or outside. Marshall Plumlee has had some injuries slow him down, but he showed flashes of brilliance and he'll see the floor plenty. Plumlee is a terrific shot blocker and rebounder. Semi Ojeleye is a freak of an athlete, and he's going to have to see the floor some. If Ojeleye can settle down and understand the system a little more, he'll be a big contributor, too.
2014 Duke Futures Odds
A Coach K team is always going to get respect from the oddsmakers. This year is no different. Duke is priced at +1,000 to win it all at BetOnline. The odds at Sportsbook.ag show Duke at +1,200 to win the NCAA Championship.
2014 Duke Blue Devils Predictions & NCAA Basketball Picks
Duke hasn't done well with young teams in the past few seasons, but this year's class is definitely the best of the bunch. The maturity of these freshmen likely means that Duke won't be making an early exit in March this time around. This team should have a really impressive year, but I think they end up falling a little bit short of a title. I'll call for a Final Four berth for the Blue Devils.
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