Coming into this season the Duke Blue Devils were ranked #1 in every preseason poll as the clear-cut favorites to win the NCAA Championship. However, that has since changed. The Blue Devils were looking like a major bust after losing Coach K for nearly a month and falling to #21 in the rankings. Once Coach K returned to the sidelines though, Duke seemed to flip a switch and improve their play. They have since strung together quality wins against UVA, Notre Dame, and most importantly, their bitter rivals North Carolina.
The talent has always been there for Duke this year, but the real question was whether they could put it all together. Injuries early on to top recruits Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum hindered the Blue Devils cohesion. It was pretty clear to see that Duke had very little team chemistry. They were out of sync, and that caused them to struggle at times. However, as they started to play together more, the team chemistry started to improve. That has caused them to step up their level of play and look more like the team everyone expected them to be.
The emergence of shooting guard Luke Kennard has been one of the bright spots for the Blue Devils this season. He went from being a solid role player, to someone scoring 19.8 points per game and thrust onto the Wooden Award watch list. Last year he was only a spot up shooter, but this year he has improved his offensive repertoire immensely. More recently though, Jayson Tatum looked like the top prospect that he is; scoring 28 points against the University of Virginia.
The past few games have seen the Blue Devils heat up from outside, but also play solid defense. Amile Jefferson has been a commanding figure for Duke’s paint defense. Offensively he has imposed his will down low and has provided countless second chance opportunities for the Blue Devils. Although he has been pushed into a backup role, freshman guard Frank Jackson has brought energy and shooting off the bench.
Senior Matt Jones has been Duke’s best perimeter defender, and has brought much-needed veteran presence to a young team. However, the biggest x-factor for the Blue Devils is freshman big man Harry Giles. After not playing basketball for over a year, Giles looked very shaky when he first stepped onto the floor for Duke. He seemed to have zero confidence at all. Nevertheless, the potential is there for Giles to develop into the superstar scouts pegged him as his junior year in high school.
The controversy surrounding Grayson Allen cast a dark shadow over the Blue Devil’s season, but most of that has been put in the past. Allen was predicted to be Duke’s starWith one of the best offenses in the nation, Duke could make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament. No team has as much potential as the Blue Devils, so hopefully they can put it all together when it matters most.Follow @jackstatsblog