It’s early December and conference play has not even begun, but I have never felt more confident in a prediction. In fact, Vegas, if you’re reading this, I’d like to place a bet.
The Duke Men’s Basketball team will not lose another game this season.
Full disclosure, I’m a huge Duke fan. Always have been and no, I didn’t go to school there. It’s OK, the first thing everyone jumps to is “bandwagon,” I forgive you. You’re also accusing me of only liking teams that win. Let me stop you right there, I’m a Washington sports fan. We don’t win. Even when we’re supposed to win, we don’t. Yeah, that’s right Nats and Caps, I’m talking to you. Anything else? No? I’m going to go ahead and preach now.
This Blue Devils team is the deepest, most versatile team in college basketball. Coach K has eight players that can start any given night. Eight players that could be centerpieces on any other college team in the country. And guess what? They’re not even fully healthy. Freshmen Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden made their season debut against Maine a few nights ago. Highly touted freshman, Harry Giles, out of perennial high school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, has yet to step on the floor since tearing his ACL for the second time in 3 years. The ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year, Grayson Allen, has battled turf toe and poor shooting performances throughout the beginning of this year. Yet Duke is 9-1 with its only loss coming to #7 Kansas.
Luke Kennard has been arguably the best player in college basketball. The sophomore has been consistently great on the offensive end and is so crafty with his step back jumper. Amile Jefferson is a double-double machine, recording his fifth of the year against #21 Florida last night. Even more than his stats, his energy and leadership add so much when he’s on the floor. Matt Jones is a lockdown defender and is known to hit a clutch three when Duke needs it most. Freshman Frank Jackson has been a bit of a surprise, unless you consider that he was #10 on the ESPN 100. With all the hype surrounding Giles and Tatum (#1 and #3 on the ESPN 100, respectively), Jackson wasn’t talked about much as the lone guard in the Blue Devils’ #1 recruiting class. He has shined in the spotlight and proven he can hit big shots in close games.
I can’t stress this enough. Every single player is dangerous. With Tatum, Bolden, Jefferson, and eventually Giles, they’re big and can play inside-out. Oh, you want to force them to play outside only? Kennard, Allen, Jones, and Jackson would love to beat you from deep. And while taking away either the deep ball or inside game is an option, Duke’s bigs can stretch the floor with their mid-range game and the guards are more than happy to beat you off the dribble. There’s too much firepower on this squad for any one defensive scheme to work.
The key to all of this is staying healthy. So gentlemen, if you’re reading this, get plenty of sleep, eat your vegetables, and keep your trainers on speed dial. Because if this team stays healthy, no one will beat them. Some teams will come close—North Carolina will most definitely challenge them—but Duke won’t be going home with the L.
I did warn you I was a Duke fan, right? But I think I might be accurate on this one. And you know what, I think you might think so too. It’s OK to admit it, and it’s OK to disagree with me if you just can’t get yourself to hop on the bandwagon, but if you’ve seen this team play, you know exactly what I mean.