Duke University, located in Durham, NC, is home to one of the most successful college basketball programs in the history of the NCAA. With that greatness and success, however, comes great expectations year in and year out.
Duke's 2008-2009 basketball season seemed to be a year of great triumph for the Blue Devils. Mike Krzyzewski's team won the ACC Tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2006.
Coach K and the Men in "Duke" Blue look to keep things rolling during the 2009-2010 season. Duke is without some of its top talent from a year ago (Gerald Henderson-NBA, Elliot Williams-transferred to Memphis; family matters) but they reload with a legitimate top five recruiting class.
2009 Duke commit Andre Dawkins will look to make an immediate impact after graduating early, the younger brother of Miles Plumlee, Mason, looks to stand tall at center for a tall Duke team, and Ryan Kelly will look to add versatility to a Duke team lacking multiple stong guard players.
They have senior Jon Scheyer and junior Nolan Smith in the backcourt, but besides the addition of Dawkins, that's about it for guard-play.
Duke teams of the past few seasons have had to play small, trying to run their opponents down, and ultimately beat them with their speed. Duke will have the option in 2009, however, to play at both a fast pace, as well as a more controlled, slower game centered around the big men in the post.
Miles Plumlee, who played sparingly last season, has reportedly made great strides during the summer on his way to coming back from a pretty poor freshman campaign.
Adding seniors Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek to the mix, along with Miles and the two incoming freshman, Duke looks to have size in the post for the first time in a few years. Kyle Singler can also play down low if needed, but he will most likely take time playing small forward with the great centers Coach K has on his roster.
Singler will be asked to lead the Blue Devils this season, both during the game and emotionally, as Duke fans everywhere believe he will step up to the plate and deliver. He certainly has the talent and ability to succeed in a leadership role, a job that he must take over after Gerald Henderson's departure.
The great play of Kyle Singler made the ACC Tournament a turning point for Duke a year ago. He played all 40 minutes each game, day after day, and consistently preformed in each game. The Blue Devils gained confidence after the ACC Tournament win, but they looked burnt out against Villanova in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
Going into this season, Duke looks to have the early edge in the ACC, only because UNC lost the main players from its National Championship team a year ago. Duke is a lethal team that should be a force to reckon with. The Blue Devils are ready to succeed during the 2009-2010 season; Look out country, the Devils are back!
The Key Contributors For Duke This Season:
1. PG Jon Scheyer- Coach K will likely ask Scheyer in his senior season to play point guard for Duke this season. Possessing great ball-handling skills and a passion for the game, Scheyer is capable of draining jump shots and is an excellent free throw shooter.Scheyer's consistency will lead Duke on a nightly basis on the score sheet with points and assists or off the box score with his well-known hustle plays down the stretch.
2. SF Kyle Singler- Singler will be asked to be the leader for Duke this season. That means he will be the emotional leader for a group of younger players on a very talented Duke team. He led Duke in a variety of statistical categories last season and that won't change this year. Many believe he will be up for the challenge, but could the skeptics be right?
3. SG Nolan Smith- Duke's best on-ball defender and one of the most athletic players on the team, Smith will look to have a Henderson-like junior campaign. Smith was born with a great IQ for the game which really shows on the hardwood. Look for Smith to impress this season, playing his more comfortable role of shooting guard.
4. SG Andre Dawkins- The most talked about aquisition for the Blue Devils over the summer came from a player that was already committed to the program, Andre Dawkins. Possessing the skills of a point guard and one of the sweetest shooting strokes since the days of J.J. Redick, Dawkins will look to make a huge impact early on.
5. PF/SF Lance Thomas- Lance Thomas is one of the most under-appreciated guys in all of college basketball. Thomas does the little things for Duke, whether that be a key rebound or block late in the game. Thomas will look to play more aggressively on the offensive side of the ball this season, and should adjust quite nicely.
6. C/PF Miles and Mason Plumlee- They are brothers and both talented big men, and they will both be crucial Duke's success this season. Mason, the youngest and more talented of the two, will look to make an immediate impact for Duke this season. Miles, on the other hand, is a sophomore looking to put his freshmen year behind him. Look for the Plumlee Brothers to help Duke become one of the most feared frontcourts in the ACC.
7. PF/SF Ryan Kelly- A product out of Ravenscroft, Ryan Kelly is one of the most skilled men his size. Not only does he posess a great shooting game, but he can also step behind the three-point line and drain the trifecta. He'll remind you of Singler because of his great skills on both offense and defense. Kelly is the type of player who will contribute to Duke early on in the season.
8. C Brian Zoubek- Zoubek has been through every injury imaginable, and for a man his size, it is hard to believe he has been able to come back and play with the same intensity he had before each injury. Zoubek will look to eat up time in the center position for Duke this season, but again looks as if he will not be a huge factor for Duke overall. He may prove the doubters wrong, but for the time being, it is hard to see that happening.
Also, Check out my article highlighting Kyle Singler and what he means for Duke this season.