2008-09 record: 30-7 overall, 11-5 ACC (third)
Postseason: 2-1, lost to Villanova in third round
Projected starting lineup: G Nolan Smith, G Jon Scheyer, G/F Kyle Singler (right), F Lance Thomas, F Brian Zoubek
• Experience. Even with the expected loss of Gerald Henderson (NBA) and unexpected loss of Elliot Williams (transfer), Duke still has five players who started at least 16 games last season. Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler enter their third season as teammates. Even with Singler's position switch, there's a familiarity between Duke's two best players that other teams just don't have.
• Shooters. Singler (.441), Nolan Smith (.426) and Scheyer (.397) are all effective outside shooters. You can add freshman Ryan Kelly to the list of capable 3-point shooters giving Duke an edge at the top of the standings in that category.
• Quickness. Williams only averaged 4.3 points per game and spent the first half of the season on the bench but his defensive intensity and athleticism will be sorely missed. Smith can pressure the ball but how much can he really do that with the minutes he'll have to play?
Duke's man-defense last year, with generally five players in the same mold (when Brian Zoubek was on the bench), was almost like a matchup zone with all the switching it did. You'll see much more that tightly-packed formation without the depth or overall quickness to handle the league's best guards.
• Backcourt depth. Technically, Scheyer and Smith are the only scholarship guards on the roster. Coach Mike Krzyzewski bristled at the position labels when that was brought to his attention earlier in July. Singler can absolutely handle the offensive end of his switch to Henderson's guard-forward amalgamation but he's not the defender Henderson was. Just the sheer minutes — unless K breaks form and uses more bodies, maybe walk-on Jordan Davidson or banished sophomore Olek Czyz, than he has in the recent past — will take a toll on Duke's best players at the absolute worst time (March).
Krzyzewski's doesn't play the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" game but with the right combination of breaks, Duke could have rolled out a lineup of John Wall, Henderson, Williams, Scheyer and Singler (hello, Final Four), instead he's minus three of those parts (goodbye, Final Four).
For reasons expanded on in the Summer Hoops Preview: The Picks, I still like Duke to win the ACC. One reason is how much Krzyzewski values every game. The man is averse to losing. Roy Williams, while no fan of losing, seems to have a better grasp on the value of an ACC loss, or extra rest before the NCAA Tournament.
Duke was every bit as dominant in the ACC from 1999 to 2003 as Carolina has been in the past five seasons. Duke lost 12 games in those five seasons (and won the ACC Tournament every time). From 2005 to '09, UNC lost 16 games (and won the ACC Tournament twice).
Point is where Duke sits now, an admitted step behind UNC, K is not interested in giving any quarter to UNC, particularly when he has a chance to play the respect card with a veteran team.
Two reasons to take Duke in a close conference race:
1) Singler will be the best player in the league.
2) Duke has the best homecourt advantage in basketball. (And with Tyler Hansbrough safely in the NBA, maybe it will even kick in against UNC).
|F Kyle Singler||Jr.||16.5||7.7||2.4|
|G Jon Scheyer||Sr.||14.9||3.6||2.8|
|G Nolan Smith||Jr.||8.4||2.2||1.7|
|F Lance Thomas||Sr.||5.3||3.6||0.5|
|F Brian Zoubek||Sr.||4.1||3.7||0.4|
|F Miles Plumlee||So.||1.8||1.4||0.0|
|F Olek Czyz||So.||0.6||0.9||0.2|
|G Gerald Henderson||16.5||4.9||2.5|
|G Greg Paulus||4.9||1.3||1.3|
|G Elliot Williams||4.2||2.3||0.7|
|F Ryan Kelly||Fr.||6-10||205||12|
|F Mason Plumlee||Fr.||6-11||210||18|
Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:
Kelly: "You’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy who is going to work harder at his craft. He's a natural scoring power forward with a face-up game."
Plumlee: "He's at his best with the ball in his hands and making plays. You can lob it to rim for him and he's just as likely to get a board and bring it down the floor."
2008-09 record: 12-19 overall, 2-14 ACC (12th)
Projected starting lineup: PG Mfon Udofi, SG Iman Shumpert, F Derrick Favors (right), F Gani Lawal, F Zach Peacock
• Size. Forward Gani Lawal, who was second in the league in rebounding (9.5), would have been a first-round pick but chose to come back to school. Forward Derrick Favors, the top recruit in the nation, wouldn't be in college if the NBA one-year rule wasn't in place. Throw in the underrated Zach Peacock and freshman Daniel Miller, who was essentially a recruiting gift from UGa, and Tech's as deep and as talented up front as any team in the league.
• Point help. Iman Shumpert flat-out struggled at the point as a freshman, turning the ball over an astounding 3.7 times per game. The combo guard was just trying to help the team out by playing out of position. He ultimately did more harm than good. With the addition of freshman Mfon Udofi, the return of D'Andre Bell from a medical redshirt and a healthy Moe Miller, Tech won't have to use Shumpert — the third first-round pick in Tech's starting lineup — out of position. And with noted chuck Lewis Clinch out of the program, there will be plenty of open looks for the gifted Shumpert at the 2.
• Bad schedule. The Yellow Jackets drew the short straw in scheduling as the only team in the conference that plays both Duke and Carolina twice. The Jackets also have two games with FSU and Clemson, a pair of likely NCAA Tournament teams, and just one each against N.C. State, Virginia and Miami.
• Too many cooks. Is there such a thing as too much talent? Coach Paul Hewitt brought in a fantastic, six-player recruiting class, but now he has to manage minutes, as well as the egos. That can be trickier than it looks on paper (see: N.C. State '07-'08), especially when you bring in a one-and-done lottery pick.
It's difficult to reconcile Hewitt's record (154-131) at Tech. In nine seasons, he has finished with a winning record in the ACC just once ('03-'04) and finished with an overall losing record four times, including three times in the past four years.
He did take the program to the '04 national title game, losing to a powerful UConn team. In the five seasons since, the Jackets have made the NCAA Tournament just twice.
The biggest problem for Hewitt, who is one of the nicest and most thoughtful coaches with the media, is that he pays way too much attention to the referees. He teaches an aggressive defensive style, which is fine, but if you can get away with the contact, you can't keep pushing the ballhandler. More often than not, Tech doesn't get the calls and Hewitt spends long stretches of the game ignoring his team and riding the officials.
Last year's inexplicable 2-14 finish should put him at DefCon 2, which means if he's interested in keeping his job, he'll focus on the task at hand. This should be an exceptional recruiting class, one that will either save his job or hasten his exit.
If Favors is a J.J. Hickson-like distraction, Tech won't get out of its own way. If Favors is the generational talent so many recruiting evaluators think he is, he'll carry the team to the top third of the ACC.
Hewitt can coach, the question does he remember how? With his feet to the fire, the chances are strong the Jackets find a way to win nine conference games.
|F Gani Lawal||Jr.||15.1||9.5||0.6|
|G Iman Shumpert||So.||10.6||3.9||5.0|
|F Zach Peacock||Sr.||9.2||4.8||0.9|
|G D'Andre Bell||Sr.||6.6||2.1||1.9|
|G Moe Miller||Jr.||5.8||2.0||4.3|
|G Lance Storrs||Jr.||4.1||2.0||1.2|
|F Brad Sheehan||Jr.||2.1||1.8||0.4|
|G Nick Foreman||So.||1.7||1.1||0.4|
|G Lewis Clinch||15.5||3.5||3.0|
|F Alade Aminu||11.8||8.0||0.7|
|F Derrick Favors||Fr.||6-10||234||1|
|G Mfon Udofia||Fr.||6-2||175||35|
|F Kammeon Holsey||Fr.||6-8||199||89|
|F Daniel Miller||Fr.||7-0||240||—|
|G Glen Rice Jr.||Fr.||6-5||194||—|
|F Brian Oliver||Fr.||6-6||222||—|
Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:
Favors: "He's an anchor inside and doesn’t even have a signature move yet. I expect him to be among the leagues top rebounders and shot blockers. He has a chance to be special."
Udofia: "He's a competitor and is the perfect guy to have alongside Favors. He will get the big man the ball, has an edge about him. He should help not only Favors but relieve Shumpert of having to lead, score and be primary handler; a huge pick up."
Holsey: "He has so much athletic promise and potential. I love his body and where he projects in two seasons. He should easily replace [Alade] Aminu and has potential on offense."
Miller: "What a super late pickup! Miller hasn’t played high level competition yet but once he gets used to the play there's a jump he can make with his game. Think Iowan Jared Reiner a few years back."
Rice: "He will get time at the 2 and 3 but he's basically a rotation guy who does a few things well but none spectacular. He will be a good wingman who is a No. 4-8 in Tech's rotation in time."
Oliver: "A specialist shooter on the wing. He will need to become a better defensive player if he's going to be a significant part of the rotation."
2008-09 record: 23-9 overall, 9-7 ACC (fifth)
Postseason: 0-1, lost to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
Projected starting lineup: PG Demontez Stitt, SG David Potter, F Milton Jennings, F Trevor Booker (left), F Jerai Grant
• Bigs. With Trevor Booker, Jerai Grant and two highly-touted freshmen big men on the roster, Clemson should eat up smaller teams (if there is such a thing in this year’s ACC) on the glass. Booker, who would have been an All-ACC pick last season if not for the glut of point guards, averaged a league-high 9.7 rebounds as a junior and should have his way around the basket again, particularly with Clemson's limited outside options.
• Late addition. The Tigers, who already boasted one of the best recruiting classes in coach Oliver Purnell’s career, got a mid-summer boost when 6-6 Southern Cal commit Noel Johnson chose Clemson after the Trojans released him from his Letter of Intent. With Terrence Oglesby's departure to Europe, the Tigers needed another outside option.
• 3-point shooting. Clemson averaged a league-high eight made 3-pointers per game last season but without Oglesby and K.C. Rivers, who's left to keep defenses honest?
• Clemson being Clemson. The Tigers haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1997, and like their 0-for-forever streak in Chapel Hill, that has to wear on you.
After Clemson lost seven of its final 11 games last season – including to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament — Purnell made it clear that only the older Booker is guaranteed a starting position. Someone is going to have to take the pressure off the forward down low, preferably by hitting jump shots. Who’s that going to be?
The Tigers’ recruiting class has enough potential to help contend for an NCAA tournament slot but until the freshmen prove themselves, and a starting lineup is determined, it's hard to pick this team to finish in the top third of the league – much less to avoid a familiar late-season flame out.
|F Trevor Booker||Sr.||15.3||9.7||1.7|
|G Demontez Stitt||Jr.||8.7||2.4||3.8|
|G David Potter||Sr.||4.9||2.2||1.3|
|F Jerai Grant||So.||4.7||3.2||0.5|
|G Andre Young||So.||4.4||0.8||2.1|
|F Tanner Smith||So.||3.6||1.8||1.1|
|F Bobo Baciu||So.||2.0||2.1||0.4|
|F Bryan Narcisse||So.||0.4||1.1||0.3|
|G K.C. Rivers||14.2||6.0||1.6|
|G Terrence Oglesby||13.2||1.7||1.8|
|F Raymond Sykes||7.9||5.1||0.7|
|F Milton Jennings||Fr.||6-9||225||23|
|G Noel Johnson||Fr.||6-6||190||56|
|F Devin Booker||Fr.||6-8||235||65|
|G Donte Hill||Fr.||6-4||200||—|
Recruiting analysis by Dave Telep, scout.com:
Devin Booker: "Chip off his brother's block. His body is really solid, he has got the goods around the hoop. If his motor runs like his brother's, look out."
Jennings: "A smooth big guy, he's part of the new era of power forward who starts from the outside and works his way in."
Hill: "This kid comes into college with a chip on his shoulder. Fresh off a great senior year, he’s not highly touted but he’s been highly effective. Blue collar kid."
— By Robbi Pickeral and J.P. Giglio