Duke Basketball: Game-by-Game Predictions for the 2011-12 Season
The college basketball scene has been dominated by a handful of teams over the past two decades, one of which is Duke. Under the leadership of coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke Blue Devils have emerged as a powerhouse team once again.
All powerhouse teams like Duke have a burden to carry however. Every team labeled as a powerhouse team has become hated, and Duke is the most hated team in college basketball.
Whether you love or hate Duke (there really is no middle-ground to most fans), you probably have an interest in how they do every year, and this article is for you.
Whether you want to see them win or lose every game, this article predicts the outcome and more of every game that we know the Blue Devils will play.
Key Departures (class in the 2010-11 season): G Nolan Smith (senior), F Kyle Singler (senior), G Kyrie Irving (freshman).
Key Returns (class in the 2010-11 season): G Seth Curry (sophomore), F Mason Plumlee (sophomore), F Miles Plumlee (junior), F Ryan Kelly (sophomore), G Andre Dawkins (sophomore).
Key Incoming Freshmen: Austin Rivers, Alex Murphy (graduating high school one year early), Marshall Plumlee, Quinn Cook, Michael Gbinjie.
The Blue Devils went 30-4 last season, won the ACC tournament, and lost to the Arizona Wildcats in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils were pretty deep by their standards last season, and there was not enough playing time for certain players, such as the talented Seth Curry.
The Blue Devils will be deeper this season, and they will have great flexibility, which will really help Mike Krzyzewski turn this team into something great.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes were the top-ranked team in the nation last season, and they were awarded the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes have lost seniors Eddie Days, David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale, but they have Jared Sullinger coming back, and that is huge for them. The Buckeyes have also landed PG Shannon Scott, C Amir Williams, SF Sam Thompson and SF LaQuinton Ross through recruiting.
The Buckeyes are a good team, and while they may not have the same outside game as last season, they have an excellent interior game.
A bit of history for this game: the Blue Devils have been unstoppable in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and they seem to come up big in big games.
Prediction: Sullinger comes up big, but Duke and their outside game top the Buckeyes. Duke wins by 7.
The Washington Huskies made an improbable run in the Pac-10 tournament to cement their spot in the NCAA tournament, but they fell in a close game to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The Huskies have lost seniors Venoy Overton and Justin Holliday since last season, and their best players, Isiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning to the NBA.
Point guard Tony Wroten Jr. is their only ESPNU Top 100 recruit joining them in the 2011-12 campaign.
The Huskies are not as good a team as they were last season. With only one returning player over six-foot-nine-inches, the Huskies do not have the height to match up inside with the Blue Devils. Duke will be able to utilize their bigs, or they can match up with the Huskies when they go small.
Prediction: This game won't even be close with Dukes' height playing a factor and their shooters getting wide-open looks. Duke wins by 14 in a game that is not as close as the score appears.
Yes, there is another basketball team in Miami besides the Heat. The Miami Hurricanes have lost senior Adrian Thomas, but their star player, Malcolm Grant, has decided to come back to school for his senior year.
The young Hurricanes are getting older, and they will have four seniors next season, as opposed to only one in the previous season. The Hurricanes are growing up, and that means that they will have a much better season this year.
Miami always plays Duke tight, and there are very few blowouts between them. In fact, Duke's seven point win during the 2010-11 season was considered a blowout by their standards.
Miami will be able to match up with Duke because they are big enough to compete, and they have an inside-outside presence, with Malcolm Grant leading the team.
Prediction: Our first real upset, I see Miami shocking Duke in this game. They always play Duke tight, and with Miami becoming better, and Duke becoming slightly worse, I see a close game that goes Miami's way. Malcolm Grant drops 20 or more, and Miami wins by 2.
Florida State Seminoles
The Florida State Seminoles had an excellent season last year. The Seminoles upset the Blue Devils in the regular season, handing them their first loss of the season. They then made it into the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed, and made an improbable run into the Sweet Sixteen, where they lost to the VCU Rams.
The Seminoles have lost their best players in Derwin Kitchen and Chris Singleton, to go along with A.J. Yawn and Andrew Rutledge. They do, however, have five returning juniors, and a great recruiting class, led by SF Antwan Space.
The Seminoles may not be as good as last season, and they will not make it to the Sweet Sixteen this season (I can guarantee that), but they will still fight for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Seminoles have been a great defensive team, but they will run into a high-powered Duke team that is seeking revenge upon the Seminoles.
Coach K and his deep, flexible Duke team will be able to cause mismatches all night long, and they will punish the Seminoles this time around.
Prediction: The threes will drop this time, and Duke will defeat the Seminoles. Duke wins by 9, and look for Seth Curry/Andre Dawkins to step up in this one.
The Virginia Cavaliers had a disappointing 2010-11 season, going 16-15, and finishing eighth in the conference standings.
The Cavaliers will lose three seniors from last season, and they have only a decent recruiting class. Virginia had seven freshmen last season, and their inexperience may have led to their lack of success.
Virginia may be able to matchup with Duke inside with Assane Sene, but if he is does not play, the team is done for.
Even if Sene does play, the Cavaliers won't be able to constantly match up with Duke at every position, and they will not be able to stop the Blue Devils.
Prediction: Duke takes an early lead and doesn't look back. Duke wins by 13.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Virginia Tech Hokies saw their bubble burst against the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC tournament last season, and they were one of the biggest snubs in the country in March.
The Hokies were led by Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen during their 2010-11 campaign, but both of those guys will be leaving, along with four other senior contributors.
The Hokies literally lost more than half of their team, and it's a good thing for them that they have a good recruiting class coming in, led by SF Dorian Finney-Smith.
The Hokies missed out on their best opportunity to make the tournament last season, and after being snubbed three years in a row, they will not even come close this season.
Duke will be able to bully the Hokies inside, and out-run them the entire game, leading to a blowout.
Prediction: Duke wins this game easily, and this score is going to be much higher if the game is in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke wins by 11.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons had a dreadful season last year, going 8-24, and only winning one game against conference opponents in 16 games.
The Deacons have lost two seniors, the better of whom is Gary Clark, who averaged almost 11 points per game. Besides them, the Deacons are the same team, however, except that they are older and more experienced.
The young Deacons of last season struggled in big games, and games that came down to the final minutes, because of their inexperience. The Deacons have a decent recruiting class coming in, but their biggest strength is the fact that the team gained a total of 12 years of experience (12 players all gaining one year).
The Blue Devils beat the Deacons by 24 points last season, and while it will be closer, it will still be a blowout. Duke is bigger, faster, more athletic, deeper, and just the overall better team.
Prediction: The Blue Devils outplay the Deacons at every position, and it is because of that that this game isn't close. Duke wins by 18.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
The North Carolina State Wolfpack had a depressing season, going 15-16 in the 2010-11 season, and finishing 10th in the ACC.
The Wolfpack was led by senior Tracy Smith and freshman C.J. Leslie, both of whom could have gone to the NBA, but Leslie will return to NC State.
The Wolfpack lost three seniors, including Smith, but they still have 11 returning players, and a decent recruiting class. I see them winning a few more games, but they will not be a top-dog in the ACC by any means.
NC State has pretty good size, and they will be able to match up with Duke down low, but they will not be able to handle their guards. Duke will be able to run and knock down open shots against the Wolfpack.
Prediction: This game will start out close because Duke will start big, but when they start to utilize their superior guard-play, the Blue Devils will pull ahead. Duke wins by 16.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets went 13-18, and finished 11th in the ACC in the 2010-11 season. The team was led by guards Iman Shumpert and Glen Rice Jr.
Shumpert will probably go to the NBA, while Rice Jr. will probably stay in college. The Yellow Jackets will be losing two seniors and Shumpert, and their incoming recruiting class is below average.
Georgia Tech is a small team, there's no getting around it; and while they do have two players listed at over 6-feet-10-inches, Duke will be able to bully them inside all night long.
Prediction: Duke can take Georgia Tech inside, but I see them trying to blow them away early with the three. If the three isn't falling (and I expect Georgia Tech's perimeter defense to make sure of that), then the Blue Devils will need to come inside. Duke gets a scare here, but they do come out on top. Duke wins by 3 in a close game.
Boston College Eagles
The Boston College Eagles went 21-13 last season, and they were a No. 1 seed in the NIT tournament. The team was led by Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani, and they just missed out on the NCAA tournament.
With Trapani being a senior, and Jackson declaring for the NBA Draft, the school will be losing their key contributors, along with seven other seniors. There are a total of nine players departing from Boston College, and they do not have the best recruiting class coming in.
The Boston College Eagles only have four returning players, and they will probably be in the basement of the ACC next season. They are going to be a young, small, inferior team, and the Duke Blue Devils will blow them out of the water in their game.
Prediction: The Blue Devils come out swinging, and they destroy the Eagles, holding them to under 60 points, while scoring around 85. Duke wins by 28.
The Clemson Tigers went 21-11 last season, and made it into the NCAA tournament. The Tigers were led by seniors Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant.
Since the 2010-11 season, the Tigers have lost four seniors and have had a decent recruiting class. The Tigers are a balanced team, with decent size and a good perimeter game, so they match up nicely with Duke.
The Tigers will be a solid team again because they have so many returning juniors and sophomores from the 2010-11 season. The Tigers will have a total of six juniors and seniors next season.
Duke and Clemson are similar teams, but Duke is deeper, and they are slightly more talented.
Prediction: This game is close throughout and the Blue Devils will turn to Austin Rivers to lead their team. Duke will win this game because of their depth, but it will be a tough-fought win for sure. Duke wins by 5.
The Maryland Terrapins went 19-14 last season, but they lacked a key victory, going 0-7 against top 25 teams.
The Terps are only losing three seniors, none of whom were irreplaceable, and they have a good recruiting class coming in.
The Terps have a good balance of size and quickness, and they match up well against Duke. The Terps will be out to prove that they are Duke's rivals, and this game will be very good.
Prediction: The Blue Devils lack senior leadership, and this will hurt them greatly. Duke will turn to freshman sensation Austin Rivers near the end of the game, and he will not be able to carry them this time, especially if the game is at Maryland. Maryland wins by 2.
North Carolina Tar Heels
This is the game that you have been waiting for. Duke and UNC are the biggest rivals in college basketball (not debatable), and they will be playing each other at least twice next season (I think a third time in the finals of the ACC tournament.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are bringing back an amazing bunch of players next season. Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes are coming back, and they will be joined by P.J. Hairston and James McAdoo, both top 15 recruits.
Point guard Kendall Marshall will give the Tar Heels six NBA-ready players, and they will be the team to beat in the upcoming season.
Duke and UNC always give us great games to watch, and everyone will be watching these two, with Duke, the most hated team in the country, and UNC, who will be ranked number one in the country most of the season.
Prediction at Cameron Indoor: The Cameron Crazies will definitely help the Blue Devils try to beat the Tar Heels like they did at home and in the ACC tournament last season, but they will fall just short. UNC's ridiculous team will win the game by 6.
Prediction at Chapel Hill: The Chapel Hill faithful will try to repeat their win over Duke at home like they did last season, and try to win the regular season ACC title again. This game won't even be that close, with it being just about over after the first 25 or so minutes. UNC wins by 14.