Duke facts and figures
36.4 Points returning: Gone is 62 percent of Duke’s scoring from last year, as the trio of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry moved on to the professional ranks. The 77.1 points per game the Blue Devils averaged last season ranked in the top 10 nationally. Quinn Cook (11.7 points per game) and Rasheed Sulaimon (11.6) are Duke’s leading returning scorers, though neither will be expected to carry the team offensively this year.
• Go-to guy: Jabari Parker. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has turned the keys over to the freshman (to be shared with Rodney Hood as well) and told him to play ball. Parker will be all over the floor, dribbling up the court, posting up a defender on the block and everywhere in between. Defensively, Krzyzewski expects him to be active on the glass and guard a variety of positions, covering everyone except the point guard at some point.
Still, it was worth verifying the hype. After Duke’s first practice, a reporter asked Rasheed Sulaimon if Parker was any good.
“I think that’s an understatement.”
• Impact Rookie: Parker, again, but let’s change it to impact newcomer (on the court, at least) and go with Hood. A guy that can play all over the floor (and guard positions 1-4) will be a match-up nightmare for Duke’s opponents, and the Blue Devils have two of those guys in Parker and Hood.
No one knows that better than Sulaimon, who had the task of going up against Hood in practice most days last year.
“Rasheed would get frustrated sometimes in practice because Rodney would score like five possessions in a row,” Thornton said. “Coaches would be like ‘There’s not many guys in college basketball right now that are going to do that. Don’t get too down on yourself.’
“He’s just that good.”
• Best case: A fifth national championship banner hangs in Cameron. Hood and Parker are the matchup nightmares everyone predicted they would be, especially when they bring the ball up the court on the break, sending the opposing defense into disarray. The Blue Devils run one of the most up-tempo offenses in the country and bring the same intensity to the defensive end of the floor, hitting double-digits in the steals-per-game category (last year’s squad averaged 6.4; the 2001 national championship team averaged 10.5). Parker enjoys college so much he stays another year to play with Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow to do it all over again.
• Worst case: The lack of on-court senior leadership is a season-long problem, just like it was in 2010-11. The talented pieces don’t quite gel together as expected, and rebounding is a season-long issue. Duke fails to advance to the Final Four, making the class of 2014 just the fourth since 1985 to leave Durham without the experience of a championship weekend (the other three classes: 1998, 2008 and 2009).
• X-factor: When asked about Andre Dawkins, every player and coach mentions his improved defense and admits there was a lot of room for improvement.
“Well, that wouldn’t take much,” Krzyzewski said when someone mentioned others had said Dawkins was a better defender.
Beyond his possibly improved defensive skills, Dawkins is one of the best shooters in the country — when he’s on. The Blue Devils expect his year away to help with his consistency, and in the preseason, he is pushed by Sulaimon for the final starting spot.
• Where to attack: Have a traditional center who is a rebounding machine (think Louisville’s now-departed Gorgui Dieng)? That would be a potential matchup problem for Duke’s collection of under 6-foot-10 wings (Amile Jefferson, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker). Fortunately for Duke, there aren’t any notably talented, true centers in the ACC
• Magic number: 78.3.
That’s how many possessions per game the 2000-01 Duke squad averaged, according to Teamrankings.com, on their run to the NCAA championship. Last year’s team averaged 69.4 possessions per game (116th nationally). Look for this team, with its increased athleticism, to push the pace and play more like that ’01 team.
Nov. 8: Davidson, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12: vs. Kansas (at Chicago), 10 p.m.
Nov. 15: Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m.
Nov. 18: UNC Asheville, 7 p.m.
Nov. 19: in Preseason NIT, 6 p.m.
Nov. 24: Vermont, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 27: in Preseason NIT (at New York), TBA
Nov. 29: in Preseason NIT (at New York), TBA
Dec. 3: Michigan, 9:15 p.m.
Dec. 16: Gardner Webb, 7 p.m.
Dec. 19: vs. UCLA (at New York), 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 28: Eastern Michigan, 2 p.m.
Dec. 31: vs. Elon (at Greensboro), 1 p.m.
Jan. 4: at Notre Dame, 4 p.m.
Jan. 7: Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11: at Clemson, 2 p.m.
Jan. 13: Virginia, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18: N.C. State, 2 p.m.
Jan. 22: at Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25: Florida State, noon
Jan. 27: at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1: at Syracuse, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 4: Wake Forest, 9 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Boston College, 6 p.m.
Feb. 12: at North Carolina, 9 p.m.
Feb. 15: Maryland, 6 p.m.
Feb. 18: at Georgia Tech, 9 p.m.
Feb. 22: Syracuse, 6 p.m.
Feb. 25: Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.
March 5: at Wake Forest, 7 p.m.
March 8: North Carolina, 9 p.m.
- Laura Keeley