A look at Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State

May 18, 2013 

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Duke

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (34th season, 884-238 at Duke; 957-297 overall)

2012-13 record: 30-6 (14-4 ACC, second)

Postseason: NCAA tournament, 3-1 (beat Albany, Creighton, Michigan State; lost to Louisville)

Projected starting lineup: G Quinn Cook, G Rasheed Sulaimon, F Jabari Parker, F Rodney Hood, F Amile Jefferson

Plus

•  Remember when Duke lost to Lehigh in the NCAA tournament in 2012, and Lehigh, from the Patriot League, had arguably a more athletic lineup than Duke, an ACC program with its choice of McDonald’s All-Americans?

This Duke group promises to be Mike Krzyzewski’s most athletic since the 2001 NCAA title team. Sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon, freshman forward Jabari Parker and sophomore forward Rodney Hood give the Blue Devils a dynamic, athletic element.

Throw in more physically mature versions of Amile Jefferson, Quinn Cook or possibly Memphis transfer Tarik Black, and Duke will be able to apply the type of defensive pressure that marked the majority of Krzyzewski’s 957 wins.

•  Some people believe in the existence of a Sports Illustrated cover jinx. You would have to think Jabari Parker is one of those people. Since SI put Parker on its cover in May 2012, billing him as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James," the 6-foot-8 wing forward has dealt with a foot injury, weight and conditioning issues and – in the court of public opinion anyway – has been surpassed by Andrew Wiggins as the best prep player in the country.

It doesn’t matter if Parker is better than Wiggins, what matters is if he’s healthy and in shape. Duke is getting an exceptional talent in Parker, who by all reports, is healthy. Parker has the skill set to handle the ball and set up others or create his own shot. He’s also big enough to defend the post and effectively rebound.

In terms of Duke players, he’s in the line of Grant Hill or Luol Deng, and he possess the type of rare talent, like Kyrie Irving, to take over games as a freshman.

Minus

• Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry scored a lot of points and won a lot of games. There’s an even-money chance Duke will be a better defensive team without them, but there’s no denying their ability to put the ball in the basket will be missed.

Duke’s 3-point shooting (the Blue Devils were sixth in the country with a 39.9 percentage) will have to rely on Cook, Sulaimon and to a lesser extent Andre Dawkins and Matt Jones, to replace Curry and Kelly’s volume.

Plumlee’s exit, in particular, will create a void in the post, one that Duke will have to fill with a transfer or by a committee of Josh Hairston, Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. Going back to the Duke ’99 comparison, the major difference is the absence of an established post. The college game has changed, and there aren’t many Elton Brands out there, but Parker or Hood aren’t built to bang with the physical frontcourts of Syracuse, Pitt or Maryland.

Bottom Line

Krzyzewski coaxed 27 ACC wins out of his previous two teams (with nary a deserved ACC coach of the year award to show for it), neither had the talent or athletic ability of this group. If Duke can stay healthy – and the NCAA actually seeds the top teams properly this time – there’s no reason the Blue Devils can’t reach the Final Four for the 12th time under Krzyzewski. If Parker, Hood, Cook and Sulaimon all reach their potential, there’s no reason Krzyzewski can’t bring home his fifth national title.

Roster

Returning PPG RPG APG
G Quinn Cook, Jr. 11.7 3.8 5.3
G Rasheed Sulaimon, So. 11.6 3.4 1.9
F Amile Jefferson, So. 4.0 2.9 0.2
G Tyler Thornton, Sr. 3.6 2.3 2.2
F Josh Hairston, Sr. 2.6 2.1 0.2
F Alex Murphy, So. 2.1 1.0 0.0
F Marshall Plumlee, So. 0.1 0.6 0.1
G Andre Dawkins, Sr. redshirt
Gone PPG RPG APG
G Seth Curry 17.5 2.5 1.5
F Mason Plumlee 17.1 10.0 1.9
F Ryan Kelly 12.9 5.3 1.7

New Ht. Wt. Rank
F Rodney Hood (Miss. State), So. 6-8 210
F Jabari Parke, Fr. 6-8 220 2
G Matt Jones, Fr. 6-4 180 36
F Semi Ojeleye, Fr. 6-6 220 40

ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep’s take:

Parker: "He’s actually the best basketball player, from a IQ standpoint and execution and his resume, of anyone in the country in the class. You’re getting a guy that’s used to winning – four straight state championships in Illinois, they’ll build statues of you at the state tournament for doing that – and he’s an exceptional fit for Duke.

"He’s a star with star power, who can easily assimilate in a team setting. We’ve seen guys come into the Triangle and clash with upperclassmen, because they thought they were bigger than the program, but that won’t be a problem with Parker."

Jones: "He’s an accurate 3-point shooter and he has been coached well in high school, so his learning curve is going to be less steep. He’s used to being pushed.

"Both Jones and Ojeleye are going to compete against each other for a set number of minutes as freshman. They’re different in size but their skill sets are similar."

Ojeleye: "Semi is a little more of a scorer than Jones and he’s a small forward, despite the size of his frame. He’s still more comfortable behind the line than going to the rim off the dribble."

UNC

Coach: Roy Williams (11th season, 282-79 at UNC; 700-180 overall)

2012-13 record: 25-11 (12-6 ACC, third)

Postseason: NCAA tournament, 1-1 (beat Villanova, lost to Kansas)

Projected starting lineup: PG Marcus Paige, G P.J. Hairston, G Leslie McDonald, F James Michael McAdoo, F Isaiah Hicks

Plus

•  P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo both decided to return for the 2013-14 season. By the end of the 2012-13 season, Hairston developed into the best player on the team, averaging 18.2 points over the final 13 games.

To give you an idea of the strides Hairston, a scoring guard, made from his freshman to sophomore seasons, he made 13 3-pointers (in 27 attempts) in three ACC tournament games in 2013. As a freshman, Hairston made eight 3-pointers during the entire conference season.

Hairston’s 3-point numbers went from 27.3 percent (38 of 139) in 2012 to 39.6 percent (89 of 225) in 2013. He also contributed 4.3 rebounds and 43 steals as a sophomore.

McAdoo, while not the dominant force he was expected to be as a sophomore, still led the team with 7.3 rebounds, 54 steals and averaged 14.4 points per game (second to Hairston’s 14.6 season average). McAdoo either hates money or really loves UNC, because he has turned down the NBA – and a spot in the first 20 picks of the draft – twice to instead play for the Tar Heels.

•  Marcus Paige developed at the point as the season progressed. Roy Williams showed a lot of faith in the undersized (6-foot-0.5) point guard, who should be stronger and more confident as a sophomore. There were games, up through January, where Paige was getting turned inside out on the defensive end but Williams stuck with him, and that decision will yield more dividends this season.

•  The addition of forwards Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, both in-state McDonald’s All-Americans, provides reinforcements inside. Williams went to a smaller lineup, with Hairston starting over the final 13 games, because he couldn’t get enough consistent production from the group of bigs (Desmond Hubert, Joel James and Brice Johnson). All three will be back (Johnson has the biggest upside) and will get significant help from Hicks and Meeks.

Minus

• Judging by their own impossible standards, this UNC group is still not on the level of Williams’ previously ultra-talented teams. Hairston and McAdoo are pros, to be sure, and there’s five McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster, but as whole, the roster is still a notch below Williams’ best teams.

•  The Tar Heels went 3-9 against teams in the NCAA tournament last season, including the 1-1 record in the tournament. They improved as the season progressed but only to the point where they could beat the teams they were supposed to beat.

The six straight wins after Hairston was put in the starting the lineup came against Virginia (NIT), Georgia Tech, N.C. State (lost in the round of 64), Clemson, FSU (NIT) and Maryland (NIT).

They’ll have to get better this season, carrying over the momentum from the finish, without the services of Reggie Bullock. Unlike McAdoo and Hairston, Bullock jumped to the NBA. His versatility, defense and rebounding really made the four-guard lineup work last season and will be tougher to replace (and probably by a combination of Leslie McDonald and J.P Tokoto) in a tougher ACC race.

Bottom Line

Most UNC fans panicked last year after lopsided losses to Indiana and Texas. Williams did some of his best coaching work in not only in winning 12 ACC games but also keeping the team from splitting apart, like it did in 2011. Williams never seems to get enough credit from his own fan base for the work he does.

Williams will get 13 or 14 ACC wins out of this team, and the Tar Heels will have a shot at another Final Four run but that will require a leap from both McAdoo and Paige (like the one Hairston made last year).

In the ACC, there’s not much difference between UNC, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Virginia. The Heels will face the Irish twice but only see the Orange on the road and have to play Duke twice, which leaves them at a disadvantage to Notre Dame.

Roster

Returning PPG RPG APG
G P.J. Hairston, Jr. 14.6 4.3 1.4
F James Michael McAdoo, Jr. 14.4 7.3 1.1
PG Marcus Paige, So. 8.2 2.7 4.6
G Leslie McDonald, Sr. 7.2 2.1 1.2
F Brice Johnson, So. 5.4 3.2 0.3
G J.P. Tokoto, So. 2.6 1.7 0.7
F Joel James, So. 2.3 2.4 0.2
F Jackson Simmons, Jr. 1.8 1.7 0.3
F Desmond Hubert, Jr. 1.1 1.7 0.1
Gone PPG RPG APG
G Reggie Bullock (NBA) 13.9 6.5 2.9
G Dexter Strickland 7.8 2.4 4.2

New Ht. Wt. Rank
F Isaiah Hicks, Fr. 6-8 210 18
F Kennedy Meeks, Fr. 6-9 275 59
PG Nate Britt, Fr. 6-1 165 NR

Dave Telep’s take:

Hicks: "He needs a summer in the weight room and ideally he will blossom as a sophomore because physically he has work to do. He has an excellent perimeter touch and he changes ends very well and he’s a factor as a shot blocker. In Carolina’s style, his an ideal fit at the ‘4’ because of the way he can move and run the floor very well."

Meeks: "He will reinvent himself at Carolina. He’s in need of a major conditioning program. Once he gets his body in shape, he has good footwork and excellent hands, he could be a weapon rebounding the ball and starting the fast break with his outlet passes.

"He lost his identity last year. He was out of shape and didn’t have a particularly strong year. It’s really simple for Kennedy, he will help UNC when he gets into better shape and can be a defensive rebounder and trigger the break."

Britt: "Nate rode the prospect roller coaster the last few years. He needs to get his confidence back. He’ll be a backup point guard at UNC, but he’s very capable of out-playing his reputation. When he stays within himself and he’s a passer and leader on the floor, that’s when he’s at his best. This is a low pressure and positive situation for him to get better."

N.C. State

Coach: Mark Gottfried (third season, 48-24 at N.C. State; 327-178 overall)

2012-13 record: 24-11 (11-7 ACC, fifth)

Postseason: NCAA tournament, 0-1 (lost to Temple)

Projected starting lineup: PG Cat Barber, G Desmond Lee, G Ralston Turner, F T.J. Warren, F Kyle Washington

Plus

•  A fresh start. Mark Gottfried gets to start over in Year 3 at N.C. State, and he does so with two NCAA tournament appearances under his belt and a trip to the Sweet 16.

Gottfried said after the NCAA tournament loss to Temple he could never get all the players to buy in last season. With a new season and new roster, he gets to push the reset button and try again with a group of players he recruited.

•  Sophomore forward T.J. Warren averaged 12.1 points in a supporting role as a freshman. He has the ability, and offensive efficiency, to parlay this season’s bigger role into an ACC scoring title. He will need to consistently rebound better and shoot better from the free-throw line (54.2 percent), but the opportunity is there for Warren to put together an All-ACC season.

•  N.C. State will miss both forwards C.J. Leslie, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, and Richard Howell, who led the ACC in rebounding, but both were undersized for their positions.

In freshman bigs Kyle Washington (6-9, 215 pounds) and BeeJay Anya (6-9, 275), Gottfried is getting bigger, taller bodies to play the interior. Senior 7-footer Jordan Vandenberg also fits the criteria and figures to get more minutes (5.4) than last season.

Minus

• There are two point guards on the roster, sophomore Tyler Lewis and freshman Cat Barber, but neither is as talented as Lorenzo Brown, who left for the NBA after his junior season. Brown led the ACC with 7.2 assists and averaged 12.4 points per game, his production will be difficult to consistently match. Not to mention, neither Lewis nor Barber will have as many proven scoring options to feed as Brown did.

• Warren started 14 games last season, Lewis two and Vandenberg one. That’s all the Wolfpack has back from last season’s roster, which lost two productive seniors in Howell and shooting guard Scott Wood, two talented juniors in Leslie and Brown, and guard Rodney Purvis, who to Connecticut.

That doesn’t leave a lot of experience or scoring (78.9 percent of it needs to be replaced) from a team that won 24 games and made the NCAA tournament.

Plus, while Washington and Anya are bigger than either Leslie or Howell, they don’t have any college experience. Gottfried brought in junior college guard Desmond Lee to offset the loss of Purvis, and Lee’s maturity will help, but Gottfried couldn’t find a veteran big man to plug into the rotation.

Bottom Line

N.C. State missed an opportunity last season. There are only so many seasons when you’re going to be on equal footing with Duke and UNC, and the Wolfpack had one of those chances last season and couldn’t turn it into anything more than a fifth-place ACC finish.

Last year’s team had internal issues, ones Gottfried tried to but couldn’t fix. With basically a whole new roster, he has a chance this season to start over. State will be looking up at UNC and Duke in the process, but there are also no expectations to handle.

The conference schedule, with trips to Duke, UNC, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pitt, will keep the Wolfpack in the middle third of the conference and probably outside of the NCAA conversation, but there’s also a welcomed chance for the Pack to exceed expectations.

Roster

Returning PPG RPG APG
F T.J. Warren, So. 12.1 4.2 0.8
PG Tyler Lewis, So. 3.5 1.1 1.4
F Jordan Vandenberg, Sr. 0.7 0.7 0.0
Gone PPG RPG APG
F C.J. Leslie (NBA) 15.1 7.4 1.5
F Richard Howell 12.7 10.9 1.7
G Scott Wood 12.6 2.9 1.1
PG Lorenzo Brown (NBA) 12.4 4.3 7.2
G Rodney Purvis (transfer) 8.3 2.4 1.3

New Ht. Wt. Rank
G Ralston Turner (LSU), Jr. 6-5 209
G Desmond Lee, Jr. 6-3 185
PG Cat Barber, Fr. 6-2 165 26
F BeeJay Anya, Fr. 6-9 275 67
F Kyle Washington, Fr. 6-9 215 97
F Lennard Freeman, Fr. 6-8 215 NR

Dave Telep’s take:

Barber: "He’s a speed merchant. His first instinct is to step on the gas and get to the rim, and he’s willing to take people with him. He has to work on his shot but he can spread it around and he’s exceptionally fast. He’s going to be difficult to guard.

"It will be an interesting dynamic with him and Tyler Lewis because they can both play at the same time."

Washington: "He has the best chance of being of power forward. I’ve liked him best when he can shoot a 15-foot jump shot. He has really undervalued length and he can extend at the rim. The biggest thing for Kyle is replicating the effort every single time. "

Anya: "He’s very close to being where he needs to be physically, and if you took at all the measurables, he’s in the top 1 or 2 in the entire class in reach and wingspan. He can play through the rim and be a fantastic back-to-the-basket play. His effort and results have been sporadic. At his highest point during his junior year, he was a dominant post player. He will benefit from a defined role."

Freeman: "Lennard adds depth in front court. He’s not going to be ready to play major minutes as a freshman. He’s almost a member of the class of 2014 in that way. He’s young and will be in more of an apprentice role as a freshman."

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