Posted: 11/7/2011 11:52:13 AM
With the 2011-2012 Duke Basketball season virtually upon us it is time to look into my crystal ball at what the season may bring. The Blue Devils open the season this Friday at home against Belmont. Thus far we've all seen Duke in action in China and Dubai and they are just as much a mystery after those games as before them.
For now I can only go on what we've seen in making my predictions for this season. Don't worry there will be no Mike Krzyzewski breaks a record prediction in here, that'd be just a little too obvious even for me.
But there will be some positive predictions but some predictions that will possibly cost me my Duke fan card. So, without further ado:
Seth Curry will be the Stats Leader
So far if the exhibitions remain true to form, Seth Curry should and probably will be the statistical leader on this team.
He will likely lead the team in points, assists and steals. I am also projecting he will lead the team in free throw percentage and will lead the guards in shooting percentage.
Curry will have the ball in his hands a majority of the time and is probably Duke's best perimeter defender, so expect the junior captain to do what captain's do and lead in every way he can.
Mason Plumlee will grow up
The moment all Duke Basketball fans have been waiting for is upon us. Mason Plumlee will finally show the fans and the country what he can do.
He was perfect from the floor in both exhibition games and showed he can control the glass against smaller opponents.
The real test will comes when Plumlee goes up against a stronger, polished post player. like say, Jared Sullinger. Well he will get that chance soon enough, and while he may not be on Sullinger's level, his athleticism should help him hold his own.
Duke will not rely on the three point shot
We've already seen it in the exhibition games where Duke hasn't particularly shot the ball well from beyond the arch but still managed to win both games by comfortable margins.
With players like Curry and Austin Rivers on the perimeter, and with a committed focus of feeding the ball to the post, the Blue Devils shouldn't be the same team that had to hit about six or seven three pointers in a given game.
This years team could end up being more versatile and I'd expect more struggles will not necessarily doom Duke in certain games as it has in the past.
Rivers and Curry can both put the ball on the floor and get into the lane. I also like Quinn Cooks ability to do the same. This will cause the defense to collapse and open up opportunties for the bigs.
Duke will out rebound most teams.
Again this is something that the Blue Devils did very well in their exhibition play and something, with the size of their front line, should continue for most of the season.
Between Mason and Miles Plumlee Duke is a solid rebounding team. Add in Ryan Kelly and Austin Rivers who has held his own as the top rebounding guard in both exhibitions, and the Blue Devils should be in good shape on the boards.
That will be put to the test against other schools with solid front lines and of course anytime Duke's big men get into foul trouble.
Austin Rivers will stay in school
This could be a sign of either a good thing or a bad thing. If he stays that likely means he doesn't think he is ready or he still wants to prove something on the college level.
At this point, from what I've seen of Rivers, he doesn't look ready for the next level and it seems, at least to me, he could use another season in college.
Now that doesn't mean he won't start playing out of his mind and develop into the lottery pick many feel he was coming into his freshman year. Most feel he is a one and done player and it is hard to argue with that if he plays at top form but we haven't seen it yet.
Harry Barnes over in Chapel Hill was a one and done player too. And all he is doing is getting ready for his first season where he isn't playing in the NBA when expected and it has nothing to do with a lockout.
Freshmen will struggle early
So far it looks like the freshman have a bit of growing up to do. Alex Murphy started the first exhibition and barely saw action in the second.
Now that isn't a huge surprise given that freshman might go from starting to sitting in zero time flat. Ask Miles Plumlee.
No other freshman seemed to seem comfortable just yet establishing an identify or niche on this team in either game.
The fact that Duke will rely on their freshman for more depth is the concerning part because given the fact the the depth the team has is so young, any foul trouble or injuries will force the freshman to step up in ways they probably are not ready for or comfortable with.
As the year goes on some may feel more comfortable in their roles or may develop a more substantial role on the team but for right now the young guns are going to have a tough go of it.
Duke will not win the ACC
Duke may be one of the best teams in the ACC, talent wise, but I don't see them overtaking North Carolina as this years team to beat.
In fact it wouldn't be a total shock if they finish below second in the league. And depending on how the freshman develop and how the team comes together they could miss out on the finals of the ACC Tournament, something they've dominated for the better part of the last decade.
Duke will not win any title this year
Not only do I not see Duke winning either the ACC Regular season title or the tournament title, I don't think Duke will win any title this year. That includes the Maui Invitational that the Blue Devils will begin the year with.
In fact it would be the first time that Duke has been in it that tournament and didn't win it if this prediction comes to pass.
So no Maui, no ACC title and I think it goes without saying no national title in the future for this group of Blue Devils, though I do hope I am wrong about this one.
Duke will lose to UNC
Speaking of hoping that I am wrong, this next prediction hurts my heart to even think much less actually write down, but I don't see Duke beating UNC.
That includes the game in Cameron. It isn't that I don't think Duke has the talent to beat the Tar Heels and they certainly have the coaching, but I'm not convinced yet this team has the intestinal fortitude to win that kind of game.
If the two teams played today I believe it would be a one sided affair. UNC has talent and would run circles around Duke whose defense has struggled in the first two exhibitions.
By the time these two teams meet in February it is likely Duke should be better and the games could be close, but do the Blue Devils have that guy that will refuse to have them lose? I don't see it yet and thus I give the nod to the Tar Heels.
(All Duke fans may wish to strike me dead at this point and I can't say that I blame them)
Mike Krzyzewski will get ejected from a game
I can't remember the last time it happened and frankly I'm too lazy this morning to look it up but it has been a while since Duke's vaunted coach has been tossed from a ball game.
I think 2011-2012 will see the winningest coach in Division I history get ejected for arguing with officials in a game where his young team is struggling and the calls aren't going their way.
Krzyzewski has often used a technical foul to motivate his troops or change the momentum of a game, but as young as this team is I can see Krzyzewski's emotions getting the best of him and leading to an ejection and I see it somewhere on the road in an ACC game.
Something tells me the fans will love it too.
Now I'm not a psychic, or a pretend psychic trying to get you to call me so I can tell you your future for just a dollar a minute, but based on my observations of the team so far and my gut feeling, I can see this being an up and down year for a young team learning to play together.
I certainly hope I'm wrong and if you have your own opinions feel free to to let me know. All I ask is that you keep them PG-13 for the kiddos who may be reading.
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