Duke Basketball: 5 Biggest Reasons Blue Devils Will Be ACC Favorites in 2014
The past two seasons of ACC basketball have seen new teams emerge as competitors in the battle for conference supremacy. Duke finished second in the regular-season standings in each of the last two years, and Florida State and Miami have won the past two conference titles.
Considering the importance Mike Krzyzewski places on winning the ACC, he will be hungry to bring a conference title back to Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2014.
In looking at the way Duke's roster has been put together, it's easy to see why the Blue Devils have a good chance at returning to the top of the league.
Let's take a look at the five biggest reasons Duke will be the favorite to win the conference in 2014.
5. Mike Krzyzewski
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Mike Krzyzewski has won the ACC Championship 13 times. No other active coach has even been in the conference for 13 years. Roy Williams is next on the list of active coaches with ACC titles with two.
The experience Krzyzewski brings when it comes to navigating the difficulties of an ACC season are unparalleled, giving Duke a major advantage over the course of the year.
Coach K is known for his incredible attention to detail and game planning, which will serve Duke well when facing new opponents such as Syracuse and Notre Dame.
He knows how to prepare his teams and he is one of the best in the game at preparing his team for the scheduling of the ACC tournament, where the conference champion is ultimately decided.
4. Andrew Wiggins Is Going to Kansas
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Duke fans are lying if they say they weren't a little nervous last week when Andrew Wiggins announced where he'd be attending school. Wiggins had Florida State and North Carolina as two of his finalists, and he would have been a huge asset for either school, especially UNC.
Had Wiggins decided to go to Chapel Hill, NC, the Tar Heels likely would have been viewed as the favorite to win the conference and a strong contender to win the national championship.
Instead, the No. 1 recruit in the country decided to join Bill Self's program at Kansas, and the Blue Devils will likely only face him once next season when Duke and Kansas play in the Champions Classic in Chicago on November 12.
With Andrew Wiggins going to the Big 12, Duke is the ACC team with the most highly touted incoming freshman in America—Jabari Parker.
3. Balanced Scoring
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One of the challenges for Duke last season was the ability to find scorers other than Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, especially when Ryan Kelly missed time due to an injury.
Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook were streaky scorers, meaning most of the pressure fell on Curry and Plumlee.
The Blue Devils shouldn't be nearly as dependent on two players next season. Another year of growth and practice will help Sulaimon and Cook continue to improve, and players like Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Amile Jefferson and Andre Dawkins all have the ability to score in double figures.
Plus, X-factors like Tyler Thornton, Alex Murphy and Matt Jones could all be players who can contribute with explosive offense off the bench.
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Part of why Duke will have more balanced scoring next season is because it has an abundance of very talented players.
Instead of having to rely on an experienced starting five, Mike Krzyzewski has at least 10 guys at his disposal who will be deserving of significant playing time.
This allows Coach K to play with an up-tempo style similar to what he's done while coaching the U.S. Olympic team—an overwhelming style for many opponents.
Playing fast could also help mask Duke's weakness of not having a strong post presence. The Blue Devils might be small, but it's tough to keep up with smaller guys when they're constantly playing in transition.
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When Duke has been exposed in the NCAA tournament in the past three seasons, it's been by athletic players who have no trouble breaking down Duke's defense.
Derrick Williams jumped over Duke in 2011. C.J. McCollum shot over Duke in 2012. And Peyton Siva dribbled circles around Duke in 2013.
Don't expect to see anything like that next season.
Player like Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, along with the return of a more experienced Andre Dawkins, will give the Blue Devils the upper hand when it comes to creating mismatches on the court.
And when a coach like Mike Krzyzewski has a team loaded with athletes, championships tend to follow.