2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 5 Duke Blue Devils

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 30-6, 14-4 ACC (2nd); Lost to Louisville in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (34th season at Duke: 884-238 overall, 350-153 ACC)

Key Losses: Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly

Newcomers: Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye

Projected Lineup

G: Quinn Cook, Jr.
G: Rasheed Sulaimon, So.
F: Rodney Hood, So.
F: Jabari Parker, Fr.
C: Amile Jefferson, So.
Bench: Marshall Plumlee, So.; Josh Hairston, Sr.; Matt Jones, Fr.; Semi Ojeleye, Fr.; Andre Dawkins, Sr.; Alex Murphy, So.; Tyler Thornton, So.

They’ll be good because …: The Blue Devils just have so many talented perimeter weapons on their roster this year, including three guys that could eventually be lottery picks in the NBA Draft. We’ll start with the obvious: a consensus top three recruit in Jabari Parker, a 6-foot-8 do-it-all wing that will team up with Rodney Hood, a Mississippi State transfer and another 6-foot-8 do-it-all wing, to give Coach K arguably the best pair of forwards in the country. Throw in sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon, the underrated Quinn Cook at the point and Matt Jones, Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton off the bench, and it is going to be tough to earn minutes in the Blue Devil’s back court.

What makes this team the most dangerous is that Parker and Hood are big enough that they can essentially play with five perimeter players this season, creating all kinds of different mismatches. Can you imagine opposing centers trying to stay with Parker or Hood 20 feet from the basket? It’s a terrifying thought, really. With the amount of perimeter shooting and offensive firepower that the Blue Devils have, don’t be surprised to see them spread the floor, get up and down the court, and score a lot of point this season.

source:
Jabari Parker (AP) and Rodney Hood (GoDuke.com)

But they might disappoint because …: Duke really doesn’t have any size at all this season. Amile Jefferson got the start in the middle in the Blue Devil’s first exhibition game of the season over the weekend, and he is naturally a wing that’s slender and stands all of 6-foot-7. Marshall Plumlee is a seven-footer with a ton of athleticism, but does he have the strength to hold his own in the paint in the toughest league in the country? Josh Hairston has been a solid role player for three years for Duke, but he’s really not much more than that. Semi Ojeleye can soar, but he’s still undersized as a front court player.

The reason that Duke is dangerous this season is that they can create mismatches on the offensive end of the floor, but what happens when they play talented teams that have forwards that can defend on the perimeter? What happens when they have to try and stop a Julius Randle or a Mitch McGary in the paint? Will Duke be able to keep teams off of the offensive glass? Will those mismatches be worth the risk of getting Parker or Hood in foul trouble?

Outlook: Duke is in a weird spot this season, as they might end up being better than they were a season ago despite losing their top three scorers from that team. The influx of talent they get this season with Parker and Hood will help keep them afloat, but the fact that Coach K didn’t bring in a big body from the recruiting trail is a bit concerning.

That said, Duke will be quite a bit of fun to watch this season if everything goes according to plan. Their smaller lineups will be a nightmare for teams with a more traditional roster makeup to try and matchup with, and the fact that they’ll be playing an open, uptempo style that should include plenty of three balls won’t hurt, either. Throw in the new physicality rules, and Duke is going to be a team that will score a lot of points this year. They should enter the season as the ACC favorites.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

Allen Dean Steele /Allsport
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.