Duke Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for the ACC Season

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

Duke Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for the ACC Season

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    The Duke Blue Devils have rolled through the first 12 games of the season and are again ranked as the No. 1 team in the country.

    The Blue Devils have faced one of the nation's toughest schedules and have become the heavy favorites to win the ACC.

    Will it be so simple for Mike Krzyzewski's team?

    Here are five predictions for Duke during the ACC season.

Quinn Cook Will Be the Best Point Guard in the ACC

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    Quinn Cook has been the catalyst for Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke offense this season. Cook's point guard play is a big reason why the Blue Devils are 12-0 and he has earned a spot on the Cousy Award Watch List, an award given to the nation's best point guard.

    The sophomore from Bowie, MD is averaging 5.9 assists per game and has a 2.4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which are both in the Top 5 in the ACC. Cook has also improved his outside shooting and is currently shooting 50 percent from three-point range. (TheACC.com)

    Cook has proven he can play against elite point guard competition with strong performances against Aaron Craft of Ohio State and Peyton Siva of Louisville.

    If Cook can perform well against those two, there isn't a point guard in the ACC capable of stopping him.

Mason Plumlee Will Be a 60 Percent Free Throw Shooter

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    One of the most surprising stories at the beginning of the season for the Blue Devils was Mason Plumlee's ability to make free throws. Through the team's first seven games, Plumlee was shooting nearly 79 percent from the free-throw line.

    Unfortunately for Duke, his free-throw percentage is now regressing.

    In the Blue Devils' last five games, Plumlee has shot 57 percent from the free-throw line, including going 2-for-6 in the first half against Santa Clara. (ESPN.com)

    Although the coaching staff and Plumlee claim to have more confidence in his free-throw shooting ability, his form appears to be bringing him back to the 60 percent range at the line.

Rasheed Sulaimon Will Win ACC Freshman of the Year

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    Although he will face stiff competition from T.J. Warren at NC State, Rasheed Sulaimon will emerge as the conference's best freshman.

    The explosive guard from Houston has adjusted nicely to the college game and has proven to be one of the most complete freshman players in the country. Sulaimon is continuing to learn his role in the offense, but he benefits from playing alongside Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, two players that command the primary attention of the defense.

    Sulaimon is currently averaging 12.3 points per game, but this number should rise as he adjusts to life in the ACC. (ESPN.com)

    As Duke continues to have success and Sulaimon grows, many around the conference will notice his unique abilities.

Duke Will Lose 2 Conference Games

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    The Blue Devils will be favored in every game for the remainder of the regular season, but this team is bound to hit a few stumbling blocks along the way.

    If Seth Curry's injury causes him to miss games or Mason Plumlee finds himself in foul trouble, Duke becomes much more vulnerable.

    NC State and North Carolina both appear to be gaining momentum and have the talent to give the Blue Devils problems. Also, Duke will face tough road tests against Maryland and Florida State, two teams that have given them trouble in the past.

    It won't keep them from reaching any of their postseason goals, but expect the Blue Devils to pick up a couple losses during the course of the ACC regular season.

Duke Will Win the ACC Regular Season Championship

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    Despite losing a couple games, Duke will finish as the ACC's regular season champion. The Blue Devils are too talented and well coached to not win the league this year.

    Duke is led by its three seniors, and Mason Plumlee is playing at an All-American level, making it difficult for any team to figure out how to stop Duke. Plumlee has the ability the dominate the paint while Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon can attack a team from the perimeter.

    And to make life more difficult for other ACC schools, Mike Krzyzewski is calling this year's group "a very good defensive team."

    The Blue Devils will win the ACC regular season championship, and it might not be the only championship they win this spring.