Duke Blue Devils
As they head into the 2014-15 season the sky is the limit for this Duke squad. Coming off a first round upset to Mercer, Duke will be chomping at the bit to prove people wrong and get the bad test of last season of their mouths. This Blue Devil team will be made up of the top recruiting class in the country including Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Grayson Allen. Okafor and Jones came to Duke in a “package deal” of sorts as the two chose to meet up in college. Okafor is sought to be the best big man in Durham since Elton Brand if not the best in Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure. With the exception of Sheldon Williams in the mid-2000s and Brian Zoubek showing up the final month of his of senior season Duke has lacked a strong post presence over the years. Although with Okafor’s 6-foot-11, 265-pound frame Duke should have an option offensively and backbone defensively they have seldom had.
Along with the potent recruiting class Duke will be led by junior, Amile Jefferson, and senior, Quinn Cook. After playing a significant role over the past two seasons at the point guard position and totaling 60 career starts Coach K will expect Cook to not only orchestrate the offensive attack, but anchor down the defense as well. Every year come March the teams that are able to keep their championship hopes alive are chose with experienced upperclassmen. The big question for this Blue Devil team is can their excess of young talent and minute amount of tested upperclassmen amount to bringing a fifth title back to Kyzyzewskiville?
Rasheed Sulaimon (Jr.), SG- Despite not being named one of the captains, expect Sulaimon to be someone that this team will look to for leadership along with offensive and defensive production. Sulaimon is someone who has provided a spark on offense over the course of his first two years at Duke and with an array of young talent and the rigor of the ACC this year his scoring ability will be vital to night in and night out success.
Amile Jefferson (Jr.), F- With a lack of rebounding last year Jefferson continuously made strides last year towards playing a larger in that regard. Similarly he will be needed again this year for rebounding ability to lighten the weight on freshman, Jahlil Okafor. Also, as one of the team captains much responsibility to keeping the focus of the younger players throughout the season will be on him.
Duke has as much talent as anybody in the country (let’s just forget about Kentucky for the moment). Everyone is very quick to make the connection between top recruiting class and high ranking in the polls although it is not that simple. Although Duke has a lot of talent all of the freshmen still need to adapt to the college level to some degree. I see Duke’s team really coming together especially come late February and March, but don’t think there won’t be a few bumps in the road getting there. Duke will finish second in the ACC and make a run to the Final Four.