Duke Blue Devils
Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
2018-19 Record: 32-6, 14-4 Conference
Odds to win Title: +850
Odds c/o Bovada
The Duke Blue Devils stacked the deck last year just to fall short of a Final Four. Say goodbye to all four of those top-talents that placed Duke there and run it back? That is in general, exactly what happened, as Duke bid farewell to RJ Barrett, Marques Bolden, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson. Even with those losses, Duke is back in the mix at +850 to win the national title according to college basketball oddsmakers at Bovada.
Simply, Duke brought in another coup of recruits to re-load. The same Final Four expectations remain, even with a different cast.
Duke’s new post faces will include 6’10” 270-pound freshman Vernon Carey, Jr., the son of a former NFL offensive lineman and one of the top recruits of his class. Carey has great touch around the basket, and he is surprisingly lithe considering his frame. He can even stretch the court, which should bode well for his draft prospects when the time comes.
Carey is joined by Javin DeLaurier and Jack White. Both are entering their senior seasons and will provide leadership along with their hard-nosed play. Matthew Hurt is a 6’9” freshman who adds some shooting to the frontcourt. He’s also a smart and adept passer who should facilitate a lot of offense from the high post.
Tre Jones returns at point guard, giving Duke some stability at the position for the first time since Quinn Cook a half-decade ago. Coach K likes his 3.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, giving Duke a heady guard that can help protect its lead. Also a tremendous defender, Jones should be in the running for ACC Defensive player of the year. Jones’ on-ball pressure will allow Duke to control the tempo, which can prove vital in March when the madness really begins. He is joined by freshman Cassius Stanley and Wendell Moore, both of who can add additional defensive pressure on the wings. Duke should be set up well to help mitigate the effects of explosive backcourt scorers with that trio.
Stanley is an outstanding athlete, and Moore is a big-bodied wing capable of using his strength to control offensive players. Neither are lights out from three, but both are decent enough to keep defenses honest and allow the Duke interior its room to work. Alex O’Connell will come off the bench to provide some of that outside shooting, at any rate, but his defense must improve if he is to be a big factor. Jordan Goldwire may see some time as well due to his defensive intensity. That can earn a guy minutes.
Duke put up its best defensive stats in four seasons last year, but the cast is so new. Can the Devils build continuity losing so many key parts? Duke’s success will be cued on that end, so Coach Krzyzewski is hoping last season’s defensive strongpoints remain. Jones, at least, brings back the core of it. The dictum that “Offense wins games, but defense wins titles,” will be put to the test again as a young Duke team tries to gain its chemistry and swagger beginning on the defensive end of the court in 2019-20. It may be tough to imagine a team so heavy in freshman talent making its way to the Final Four, but Duke is hoping to do just that, to redeem itself from a disappointing 2019 run. By March, this team could be quite formidable on both ends of the court, but Coach K is priming his kids to get it done first on the defensive end of the ball.