Duke Blue Devils
Title Odds: +375
Odds c/o Bovada
The Duke Blue Devils come into 2016-17 with the most-favored odds at winning the 2017 NCAA title at +375 on oddsmaker Bovada. Of course, seeing the Devils here is familiar territory, most especially because this is a program just two years removed from an NCAA title.
Duke has been able to do something that the Kentucky Wildcats have been less successful at: blending experience and upperclassmen with one-and-done talents. Coach Mike Kryzewski has straddled the line between fielding those four-year athletes and the explosive one-year stars, and it looks like he has managed to construct a roster in that fashion once again.
For the rest of the NCAA, that is a big “uh-oh.” Coach K works well enough with average talent, and allowing the Blue Devils to stock the shelves with the NBA prospects only bolsters Duke’s chances of hauling in another NCAA crown. Duke has the No. 1 recruiting class this season, and seven freshman who could all make some contributions right away.
It begins in the front court with 6’10” forward Harry Giles. Giles is a one-and-done big man, and there are few doubts about that. He did tear his ACL in his right knee last fall, and has had similar issues with his left knee. Those are looming concerns on his career, but his talent is in no way in question. Giles will team with 6’9” forward Amile Jefferson, who was averaging a double-double last season asa redshirt freshman before suffering a foot injury (which led to the redshirt).
Giles and Jefferson should be a powerful tandem inside for Duke, but both must reach full health before this team reaches its stride. Behind the pair is Chase Jeter and Marques Bolden. Bolden was a top center in the 2016 class who chose Duke over Kentucky, and his talent will at least add plenty of depth once Giles and Jefferson are in top form. Jeter is a 6’10” sophomore and averaged just eight minutes per game last season, but his role should increase this season with so much youth on the roster.
Duke is pretty stacked on the perimeter, but Coach Kryzewski simply said “I’d rather have a lot of good players than a limited number of good players.” That is pretty sound logic, but how will the pieces fit together for Duke?
Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum will be the keys. Allen had a nice 16 point outing in the 2015 championship game and he averaged 21 points per game last season while making the All-American squads.
Tatum may be overshadowed initially by Allen, but he is expected to be a top 2017 NBA Draft pick and has the size, speed, athleticism and strength to keep with the tougher guards both in the Conference and against the likes of Kentucky’s loaded backcourt. Tatum and Allen can both play the point, as well, which gives the Blue Devils some flexibility (and moxy). Frank Johnson is the lone true point, but it will hardly affect Duke with the talent it has assembled.
Matt Jones and Luke Kennard add plenty of depth and would start for most programs. Kennard averaged 12.4 points per game in ACC play last season and will get plenty of minutes. How Coach K manages to allot adequate minutes to all these guards is a mystery he has only dodged and side-stepped.
That is the final word on Duke: So much talent it is hard to get them all minutes. It must be pretty rough having a program that good, huh, Coach K? The Devils have a well-rounded roster without any major flaws or holes, and it is a contending caliber team. As to whether it gets there in March is a matter of how well Kryzewski molds it all together. We have an indication it will work out just fine. Duke does that.