Duke Basketball: Why Can't the Blue Devils Land a Beast for the Block?

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Duke Basketball: Why Can't the Blue Devils Land a Beast for the Block?
Craig Jones/Getty Images
Shelden Williams

It's hard to argue with Duke's success.

In the Coach K era (1980-present), the Blue Devils have won 854 games, made 11 Final Four appearances and taken home four NCAA championships.

The list of national players of the year that have brought it for the Cameron Crazies is a "Who's Who" of college basketball:

Johnny Dawkins (1986)

Danny Ferry (1989)

Christian Laettner (1992)

Elton Brand (1999)

Shane Battier (2001)

Jason Williams (2002)

J.J. Redick (2006)

One of the changes that has taken place in the Blue Devils' style of play over the years is a greater and greater emphasis on perimeter play.

Instead of featuring players who can do business down low, Coach K seems to favor those who can drain shots from beyond the arc or break down their opponents off the dribble. 

 

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Josh McRoberts goes against Tyler Hansbrough

 

Ever since Shelden Williams won back-to-back National Defensive Players of the Year awards in 2005 and 2006, Duke has lacked a dominating inside presence.

There's been Josh McRoberts, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and Plumlee brothers one, two and (now) three. Each of these bigs have had their strengths and solid roles on their respective teams.

However, none of these power forwards/centers has been a true force to be reckoned with.

This year's recruiting class showcases 5-star SG Rasheed Sulaimon and 4-star combo forward Amile Jefferson. Both are super talented players, but neither of them will be setting up shop on the block.

The still-forming Class of 2013 consists of a pair of 4-star wings, SG Matt Jones and SF Semi Ojeyele. They are two very good shooters from distance, but neither is going to make anyone double-down in the paint.

Next year, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood will add more athleticism and length on the wing after sitting out this year.

The best big man among this year's recruits, Julius Randle, recently removed Duke from consideration when he reduced his list to six schools (Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma).

Jabari Parker (espn.go.com)

 

And when you look at the players who Coach K and his staff are still pursuing this year, there are no overpowering post players. Austin Nichols, who just visited campus, is a very nice 4, but would be an undersized 5.

Even if the Blue Devils win the Jabari Parker sweepstakes, they will still be trying to figure out how to compete on the glass against some teams.

Officially, the Blue Devils are in (along with every other major school in the nation) on the Jahlil Okafor lottery. At 6'9" and 270 lbs, Okafor projects to be the No. 1 center prospect in the class of 2014.

But it is way too early to predict where Okafor is leaning.

This sounds almost ridiculous, but, has Krzyzewski purposely stopped going after true centers?

Have elite level bigs bought into what Class of 2012 recruit Mitch McGary said:

"All their (Duke's) big men do is set screens and rebound and that they don’t get a lot of touches."

Are there not some other quality players of size that want to come to Durham, get a great education and play in one of the premier programs in college basketball?

Senior Mason Plumlee has developed into one of the better pivots in the ACC. He uses his size and leaping ability to play above the rim at both ends.

However, after he leaves following this season, his younger brother, redshirt freshman Marshall, may be the only inside player of size (6'9" or above) on next year's Duke team.

Unless something drastic changes starting next year, MP3 will be patrolling the paint by himself, and Duke will be playing without much size or skill down low. Again.

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