Countdown to College Basketball: #8 Duke Blue Devils

This is the Final Season of the Coach K era, as at the end of this season Mike Krzyzewski is set to retire. K already has won 1,097 games, 3 National Coach of the year awards, 5 National Championships, as well as making 12 career Final Fours. While John Wooden may have the most National Championships, there’s a very clear argument that Coach K is the GOAT of College Basketball coaching. While K’s legacy is incredible, it’s time to move onto this season’s team. Last season was a major disappointment, as Duke missed the NCAA Tournament, while having some struggles throughout the season, but this season should be different. Adding in a potential #1 pick in the NBA Draft in Paolo Banchero will be a big addition, and having a talented group of players around him, makes this Duke team one that could potentially send Coach K out in the most perfect way possible, as a National Champion. 

As mentioned, Banchero will be the star for this Blue Devils team, the 6’10 forward projects as one of the most complete players in the sport, and a potential superstar this season. Banchero is a good scorer, who can make shots from the perimeter, mid-range, and be someone that dominates in the post as well. Banchero’s key for ultimate team success will come from being a good switchable defender, who can play the four for this team while being an offensive threat from the perimeter, as that will create spacing for other Blue Devils to score inside. 

While Banchero will be the freshman to watch and most people’s preseason pick for National Freshman of the year, five-star recruits AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels need to be big pieces. Griffin will start at the 3 for Duke this season, his size, length, and athleticism make him a perfect modern-day wing, while he should be a major help defensively. He can also create offense off the dribble and has the ability to spot up and knock down shots, although he’s probably going to try to score more off attacking the rim. Trevor Keels rounds out a great recruiting class, Keels projects as a knock-down shooter, while he does have the ability to create shots off the bounce. 

While Banchero could play some minutes at the 5 at times, the Blue Devils’ best lineups will have a true five-man. Mark Williams will start at the 5 and look to pick up where he left off late last season, Williams is a solid defender but excels as an efficient interior scorer, plus is a dominant rebounder. Williams should be a double-double machine while playing the majority of the minutes for Duke. Theo John will play the 5 when Williams is out, John is one of the best interior defenders in the sport and should provide valuable experience for a relatively young team. 

At the guard spot, Jeremy Roach will likely run the point this season for Duke. Roach is a 6’2 guard that is a solid scorer, decent shooter, and a good passer, who will look to be more consistent this season. Wendell Moore provides the team with a good versatile wing defender, while he improved a little bit a season ago, Moore still isn’t an elite three-point shooter, while he will be a good glue guy. Joey Baker’s career has been filled with him sitting on the bench but he still has the ability to be a knock-down shooter, while he’s an experienced wing. Jaylen Blakes looks to fill out the rotation, he’s a good shooter who could be a backup point guard for Roach. 

Frontcourt-wise, there are not many teams that will be able to match up with a Paolo Banchero-Mark Williams frontcourt, as they are going to be a monster to defend. Williams will be a dominant player in the post and Banchero will be a good fit next to him because of his floor-spacing and his ability to score at will. Hopefully, AJ Griffin returns to being what he was prior to being injured in high school, as Griffin’s a great athlete, who should be a good piece on the wing. 

The question is when it comes to guard play and shooting, which are both not overwhelming positives. Roach will run the point but he was a high turnover/ low assist lead guard a season ago, so he needs to improve as a true lead guard. Moore is too good of a defender to leave off the court but also is not a real shooting threat. The team has a lot of talent and will be tough to stop their frontcourt but the question remains whether the guards are good enough. The team has a floor that makes winning the ACC an expectation, whether they can pull it off for the first time since 2010 remains the question. If the guard play steps up, winning the ACC not only should be expected but there is a very real possibility this team sends Coach K out with a Final Four and National Championship on top of that. 

Projected Rotation 

PG: Jeremy Roach

SG: Wendell Moore

SF: AJ Griffin

PF: Paolo Banchero 

C: Mark Williams

B1: Trevor Keels

B2: Theo John

B3: Joey Baker

B4: Jaylen Blakes

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