Jahlil Okafor Will Be Duke's Remedy for Early NCAA Tournament Exits

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIApril 18, 2014

Mar 29, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds High School All American center Jahlil Okafor (22) poses for photos on portrait day at the Marriott Hotel . Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils haven't come close to winning a national championship since the last time they earned the title in 2010.

In 2013, they were bounced by the soon-to-be national champion Louisville Cardinals in the Elite Eight; however, that year was surrounded by two very disappointing first-round losses to No. 15 Lehigh and No. 14 Mercer.

Even with the talents of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, the Blue Devils were unable to get anything going late in the season.

Why was that?

Duke has lacked a consistent threat in the paint.

Yes, Parker was a great presence down low; however, his versatility allowed him to dominate all over the floor, leaving a void underneath.

After Parker's season average of 8.7 rebounds per game, the next closest on the team was Hood with 3.9.

Now, both of those players have declared for the NBA draft, leaving an even larger hole to fill.

So, what—or who—is the remedy?

That would be Jahlil Okafor.

Okafor is the natural center Duke desperately needs. His 6'11", 270-pound frame allows him to dominate underneath on both ends of the court. He's extremely active on the glass and flourishes in the post.

This is something Duke has been lacking for quite some time.

While Okafor generates attention on the inside while carving out space using his great length, he instantly adds increased versatility to Duke's offense.

With solid ball distribution and outside shooting, the Blue Devils will not have the option to feed Okafor on the inside or utilize him as a distraction to generate good looks from the perimeter.

Over the past few seasons, Duke has been relying much too heavily on outside shooting, leaving the team susceptible if its shooters aren't on point. Having Okafor inside allows the Blue Devils to get far more creative.

Not only will offensive versatility be increased, but a stronger defense and more second-chance efforts will be on hand due to Okafor's strong rebounding ability.

When Duke played Virginia in the ACC title game last season, the Cavaliers out-rebounded the Blue Devils 39-34. Duke had absolutely no answer for Akil Mitchell, who racked up an impressive 15 rebounds.

Okafor will be that answer.

Simply put, Okafor makes Duke a more well-rounded team than we have seen in years.

After all, why did Duke outlast Baylor to earn the title of national champions in 2010? One big reason was the play of center Brian Zoubek and his 10 rebounds in that game.

Finally, Duke has another center it can count on to get back to its winning ways.