Last Season Record: 30-6 (14-4)
Preseason Media Poll: 1st
Not surprisingly, Duke was picked first in the ACC yet again. However, that may have simply been a case of laziness. The Blue Devils lost their top 3 players and must replace nearly 50 points per game, plus 17 rebounds and 5 assists.
The top two returners are Cook and Sulaimon. Cook is the PG and should help to alleviate much of the growing pains. Sulaimon will be expected to increase his scoring load. But without a doubt, much of the production is expected to be made up by Jabari Parker, the #2 player in the nation. Parker is an elite player, who can score almost at will as well as pass and rebound. He's an all-around player, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Parker's weaknesses at this point are defensive, although he has also been criticized for being too passive.
Two other freshmen, Jones (36th) and Ojeleye (40th) will also help. Neither of them are as dynamic as Parker, but both can shoot and Ojeleye, in particular, is a beast on the boards for a SF. Jones can help at PG if needed, but he's mostly just a shooter at this point.
Jefferson started 7 games last year (while Ryan Kelly was hurt) and performed well. The youngest of the Plumlee brothers, Marshall must be the black sheep of the family as he managed just 50 total minutes last season. He'll likely get more than that, due simply to Duke's lack of frontcourt depth. He is still very much a project, and Coach K would do well to not count on him for much.
Coach K's signature man-to-man defense could struggle early on with such a young team. Cook will help keep things together while the rest of the team catches up. Duke's overall success may depend on Sulaimon's growth. If he can up his scoring into the mid-to-high teens, Duke will be tough as usual.
Duke may have some early growing pains as Parker and the other freshmen get oriented to college basketball. By the time the ACC season comes around, Duke should be fighting for the ACC title.