Duke Basketball: Top Offseason Storylines
The 2013-14 college basketball season is reaching its conclusion with the Final Four set for Saturday, but Duke’s season already feels like a distant memory.
It’s hard to imagine that the same team that lost to Mercer in their first game of the NCAA tournament entered the season with so much hype. Duke was ranked fourth in the preseason AP poll, picked to win the ACC, and Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood were both named to the preseason all-conference team.
Parker and Hood had good individual seasons, but the team never lived up to the hype. Duke finished 26-9 and earned a No. 3 seed in the Big Dance, which was Duke’s fewest wins, most losses and lowest seed since the 2006-07 season.
There’s been enough time for Duke fans to get over the shock of the loss to Mercer, so it’s time to start looking toward the future. Here are a few storylines Duke fans should be following closely going into the offseason.
How NBA Decisions Affect Next Year's Roster
In the next few weeks, Duke fans will be anxiously waiting for Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to declare their intentions regarding the NBA draft. Parker is seen as a potential top overall pick, while Hood is projected to be a late-lottery pick.
Parker and Hood have until April 27 to declare for the draft, and their decisions will have a major impact on how Duke looks as a team going into next season. If one or both happen to come back and join Duke’s No. 1 overall recruiting class, the Blue Devils would enter the season with massive expectations. If both leave, Duke will still enter next season with plenty of talent to work with.
Parker and Hood’s decisions could also affect the decision of unsigned No. 2 recruit Myles Turner. Turner is considering a number of top programs and could be waiting to see who leaves and who stays before making his decision.
Top Freshman Class Arrives
Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen will arrive to Durham ranked as the best group of recruits in the country. Along with talent, this heralded group brings ample on-court possibilities for Duke fans to ponder during the summer.
Will Okafor live up to the expectations of being a No. 1 overall recruit?
How will Jones fit into a crowded backcourt? Will any of these guys help improve Duke’s defense?
This year proved that having a stud freshman does not guarantee on-court dominance, so it will be interesting to see how these players jell during pick-up games and practices. One great way to see how these players are doing is to track their performances in the Greater NC Pro-Am, a summer league featuring current and past players from the triangle colleges.
You can follow Duke’s incoming freshmen and the rest of league here.
Recruiting the Class of 2015
As the class of 2014 makes the transition from prospects to freshmen, the recruiting spotlight will move to the class of 2015 this summer. Duke already has one recruit for the class in shooting guard Luke Kennard, but the coaching staff will be working hard to gain the attention of the top recruits.
A quick glance at the 2015 player rankings displays a lot of top prospects who are far from a decision. Many probably still have at least one round of cuts to make from their list of schools before making a final decision. Duke is on the long list of the top three recruits. Bored Duke fans should follow the AAU circuit all summer, as it will be interesting to see which players have serious interest in the Devils.
Duke has the top class coming in this year, but one down year of recruiting can really hurt a team on the court. Duke needs to continue to gain commitments from the top players if it wants to rise back to the top of the ACC.
The Coaching Carousel
With Steve Wojciechowski headed off to Marquette, Duke will be looking to add a new assistant coach. There is always added intrigue when Duke is looking for a new coach because Mike Krzyzewski tends to hire former players who the fans are familiar with. Since Duke already has one young coach in Jon Scheyer (it seems like he graduated yesterday), fans will wonder how recent of a player Coach K will hire for the next spot.
In addition to Duke’s own coaching staff, fans should keep a close eye on Coach K’s disciples who are now running their own programs. Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker are both coming off of successful NCAA tournament runs, and Chris Collins had a few big wins in his first year at Northwestern.
Coach K recently told reporters that he plans to be at Duke at least five more years. That was great news for Duke fans, but he won’t be there forever. As K enters the stretch run of his career, his former assistants are building strong resumes to replace him. We’ll have to wait and see if one can separate himself from the pack.
Strategy for Next Season
Coach K is famous for devising new schemes to fit his players every year. Last year we saw them pushing the pace with an athletic team; the year before, the emphasis was on slowing down and pounding the ball inside to Mason Plumlee.
K gave the media a hint at next year’s strategy while discussing Okafor during his end-of-year press conference.
“So everybody, the guys coming from high school and the guys that are still here, to me, that’s the first guy they have to learn how to play with," via The Charlotte Observer.
Playing through the post on offense could help a number of the Blue Devils’ returning players. Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook were both more consistent two years ago while playing through Mason Plumlee, and Amile Jefferson will move back to his natural power forward position after playing center this past season.