Odds to win title: +850
2014-15 record: 35-4, 15-3 ACC
Coach Mike Kryzewski has come to accept that to be a top program he has to play host to “one and done talents,” the latest of which was No. 3 overall NBA pick Jahlil Okafor.
This year Duke has three potential one and done talents to go with some returnees. Four regulars from last year’s squad are back, but none of them were stars and this year’s freshman will play a bigger role.
In the backcourt, Grayson Allen and Matt Jones were both McDonald’s All-Americans and both became role players last year. Allen averaged 4.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game but is considered to be a first round talent. Jones is a steady role player who averaged six points per game and 2.3 boards per contest.
Derryck Thornton will run the point position and Luke Kennard will come in off the bench to add some distance shooting to the mix. Thornton is a pure point guard and will be handed the reigns right away, and he is good at penetrating and finishing at the rim.
Thornton’s shooting stroke needs some work, but his aggressiveness in looking for his own offense will be mostly a good thing. Allen is capable of playing a major role this season and he is a rugged guy who will get at opposition. He can step out and hit deep threes too, which is a nice feature in making the leap to the next level. Kennard and Jones will vie for minutes and Kennard is an excellent shooter and passer who could keep the second unit flowing well.
Duke’s frontcourt is going to feature 6’9” swingman Brandon Ingram, who should be an impact player. He can pass well and handle the ball and is going to be a premier talent in the draft. He will need to take Coach K’s instruction to become a bigger threat on the blocks and begin to take advantage of his frame, but his natural gifts are undeniable.
Chase Jeter, a 6’10” big man is good down low but needs to continue to add bulk. Marshall Plumlee is going to clean up messes at the hole and he averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds last year in limited duty.
Senior Amile Jefferson averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and he could be primed for a much bigger role. He is a good rebounder and can finish well around the basket, but he is not a star. Just getting maybe 8-11 points from Jefferson would constitute a huge success. 6’11” center Antonio Vrankovic adds depth and is good on the boards with nice shooting touch.
But Duke is reliant on three freshman carrying it as far as it can go.
Coach K is now embracing the chance to coach premier talents for one year, rather than adopt a less aggressive stance and try to only take three and four year players. There are enough vets on the team to keep it stable, and it should really just be a huge influx of talent.
It is hard to bet against Coach K with a loaded deck, and Vegas oddsmakers agree setting the line for Duke at just +850 at Bovada.