Duke Is A National Favorite
Duke has never been a sexy pick for national contender, there is just always something about them. But this season is different. The Blue Devils boast three forwards that can play the 2, 3 or 4 on both ends of the floor. Skilled enough to play inside or out, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parter and Amile Jefferson, all have the potential to be lockdown defenders or perimeter threats on offense. In the backcourt, Rasheed Sulaimon has the potential to take over a game with his quickness and athleticism. He's both a threat to take defenders off the dribble and into the lane or cross them up and step-back and knock down shots with range. Even as Parker is the highest-touted prospect on the roster, Sulaimon is the key to Duke's success.
Aside from Sulaimon, Coach K can start two point guard, Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook, veterans who fit the Duke mold- effective, but not flashy. In the season-opener, Thornton and Cook combined for 10 assists and zero turnovers. With Thornton, Cook and Sulaimon in the backcourt, combining with Hood, Jefferson and Parker in the frontcourt, Duke has six players capable of handling the ball under pressure or initiating the offense in the halfcourt.
The glaring weakness, however, could be Duke's downfall. There is no post presence on either end of the floor- no one player can be counted on to protect the rim or score a bucket in the paint when needed. And that's a dangerous way to live. Duke has played these 4-to-5 offenses in the past, leading to 30+ regular season wins, but eventually, failing in the postseason.
By Steven Spector -11-12-13