2018 Duke Blue Devils Basketball Predictions with Odds and Expert Picks
If the 2019 NBA Draft were to happen today, there is a decent chance that the top three players would be freshmen from Duke - and a very high chance that the top two would be. This is a ridiculously strong recruiting class for Duke, but that is the new normal for this program. Coach K seemed to be running the last of the old-school major programs, and it was working for him, but he has gone all in on the other side. And it is working about as well as it has for Kentucky, Kansas and the others who go all in on one-and-done mega-prospects - it can lead them to the promised land, but it's more likely to wind up in disappointment and underperformance. So, will this year be a year where the remarkable collection of talent is enough to cut down the nets in the end? Or will they just fall short and be replaced next year - just like they replaced last year's collection of incredible talents who underwhelmed when it mattered?
Duke Blue Devils Additions/Losses
Last year's recruiting class was excellent, and they have gone on to other things. Marvin Bagley III went second overall to Sacramento. Wendell Carter went seventh to Chicago. After seemingly 12 years in college, Grayson Allen went to Utah with the 21st pick. Gary Trent Jr. was a second-round pick. And Trevon Duval stands as a warning to other superstars. The point guard was a consensus top five recruit in 2017. He declared for the draft, but after an inconsistent season he went undrafted and is now in the G-League trying to work his way up to the Bucks
Allen aged out, but the rest of the youngsters had to move on to make room for the new crop. R.J. Barrett, a Canadian like me, is the top recruit in the country and the presumed No. 1 pick in the draft next year. He's a freakishly athletic point forward with an incredible scoring touch. Shooting guard Cam Reddish is a strong shooter with real defensive skills. Some people think he could be even better than Barrett. And Zion Williamson, another top five recruit and likely lottery pick, is a massive mountain of a man who can fly and defends like crazy. And Tre Jones, the fourth five-star addition to the team, is the brother of Tyus, the Timberwolves' point guard who was a big part of the reason Duke won their title in 2015. This Jones is the best point guard the team has had since that Jones.
The team added a fifth recruit as well. Joey Baker, a consensus top 40 player, would be a highlight for most teams, but here he is just an afterthought. He reclassified from 2019, so he's young. The plan initially seemed to be to redshirt him, but it appears he has played his way onto the bench through the summer and fall. He's a wing with a lot of guys ahead of him, so it seems like he will be more about securing his role in future years than being a star now.
Duke Blue Devils Outlook
The talent here is obviously impressive. Very impressive. But the risks are real. The team is going to have four freshmen starting. All of them are used to being the star of their teams, and three of them are scorers who would much rather have the ball in their hands than in someone else's. If they can all find a way to work together then this will be a special team that will be extremely tough to play against. But if they are more focused on their draft stocks than their record then it could be an underwhelming run in the end.
Beyond chemistry issues, there is a more practical concern. None of Reddish, Barrett or Jones are particularly scary three-point shooters - at least not to this point in their careers. The way the game has evolved, not having guys who force opponents to space the floor can minimize some of the impact of a smaller team like this one will be.
Duke Blue Devils Schedule
Duke really doesn't ease into things, opening against Kentucky in what could potentially be one of the games of the year. A trip to the Maui Invitational promises challenge with a semifinal against Auburn and a final against Gonzaga both real possibilities. And right after that tournament they play Indiana and their star freshman Romeo Langford in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The rest of the nonconference schedule is easier. The ACC schedule is as tough as it often is. But games are spread out relatively well, so they should be able to put their best forward.
Duke Blue Devils Futures Odds
Duke and Kentucky are tied at +500 as the favorites to win the national title, which really sets the stakes for that opening game.
Duke Blue Devils Predictions
I am really high on Barrett and on Williamson as well. But I can't shake the feeling that the whole won't be the sum of these incredible parts. It feels like too much to ask to get these players on the same page in time, and while there are nice older players around, none are anywhere close to as good as the newcomers. I will bet on them to win a lot of games but bet against them to win the one that matters.
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