Will Duke Be Better Next Season?

        Not to take anything away from former-Blue Devil Austin Rivers, but Duke is anxiously awaiting next season. Why shouldn't they? They'll be better and they certainly cannot wait to help Duke fans erase the still-all-too-recent memory of losing to the 15-seed Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the second round of NCAA Tournament play.

        At first glance, not much has changed, other than the team lost its top-scorer (15.5 points), most active player (33.2 minutes) and the playmaker that this team desperately needed. He was unlike Kyrie Irving in so many ways, but there was no other play able to step up and run the offense, take the big shot, create for others. You name it, Rivers did it in the 2011-12 season for the Blue Devils.

        Coach K only has one commit on board at this point in time (although two more top prospects are still considering), Duke is losing only Rivers early to the Draft and Miles Plumlee, but will replace him with yet another, rising-sophomore Marshall Plumlee. Marshall is supposed to be the best of the trio of brothers given his size (6'11") and superior athleticism, but showed relatively little as a freshman. Middle-Plumlee Mason avoided the NBA Draft and will return for his senior year after averaging nearly a double-double (11.1 points, 9.2 rebounds) as a junior; Mason is one of the early-favorites for ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

        That frontcourt tandem will be joined by senior forward Ryan Kelly, an intriguing college and NBA Draft prospect given his size and ability to stretch the floor with his deep perimeter shooting. He was the Blue Devils' best player a year ago when the team ventured to China for summer league play and carried that momentum back to the States, but he fizzled as the season went on before bowing out in the postseason due to injury. His return to full health will be crucial for this team.

        In the backcourt, Kryzewski returns Seth Curry and his 13.2 points per game, along with super-sub and part-time starter Andre Dawkins and two point guard in Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. Curry and Dawkins round out to make this Duke team one of best shooting the deep ball, but can Cook and Thornton finally take the reins of this team? Their playmaking has been substandard thus far. All of the minutes to go around to these four guards will be push by incoming freshman (and high school all-america) Rasheed Sulaimon, a 6'3" wing. He has outstanding athleticism and a relentless motor, making him a certain defensive upgrade over the newly-departed Rivers, and his offensive game is steadily coming on.

        As UNC lost four starters from the team that won the ACC, NC State may be Duke's biggest competition atop the conference this year, especially with the return of C.J. Leslie.

By President Corey Ruff - 4 - 18 - 12