The Duke Blue Devils may have lost their first tournament game last season, but the talent on this team is too good for them not to make a serious championship run.
As a team, the numbers for the Blue Devils are rock solid. They average 78.3 points per game, the sixth-best in the country. They can shoot absolutely lights out from behind the arc, making 40.6 of their three-pointers. Their perimeter defense is impressive, holding opponents to only 29.3 percent from downtown.
There are few weaknesses for Duke, and the majority of their losses were without one of their best players.
They have struggled drawing fouls, only averaging 19.1 drawn fouls per game. This means that they struggle to reach the double bonus, which often leads to teams pulling away in closer games. Other than that, nothing else stands out.
As far as individual talent goes, Mason Plumlee is the first player that comes to mind. He’s an absolute monster under the basket, averaging a double-double with 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 59.2 percent for the year, and knows how to work in the post effectively.
Seth Curry is right behind Plumlee in terms of scoring. He averages 17.0 points per game, although his shooting is a bit further behind, making 46.3 percent of his shots. Curry does excel from behind the three-point line, however, making 43 percent of his shots from long range.
Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon are two guys that don’t get enough credit on this team. They may not be the stars of the team, but they do combine for an impressive 23.9 points per game and shoot around 43 percent. Add that to a combined 7.2 assists per game and you have two very talented guards that do a good job helping run the offense.
While all of these guys are great, the true impact player for Duke in the tournament will be Ryan Kelly. He missed the majority of the season with a foot injury but returned with a bang against Miami, putting up 36 points on 10-for-14 shooting.
As long as Kelly puts up solid numbers, the Blue Devils will keep advancing in the tournament. He creates a lot of mismatches with his size as well as his deep range.
With all of this talent, there is little doubt that the Blue Devils can make a push to Atlanta. They have the most talented roster in the Midwest region, and that’s saying a lot with teams like Michigan State and Louisville in the region with them.
Don’t count Duke out because of what happened last year. Coach K will focus this team and lead them to victory.
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