Duke is kind of like the Cowboys of College Basketball. The team that everyone hates – but still so many people like, and are covered by ESPN 24/7. Duke has had more recent success than Dallas – but still can get away with a lackluster season here and there.
With two championships in the past 10 years, I’m not saying that Duke NEEDS to win. No, they have been doing just fine – upset in the tournament a bit early in some years, but still just fine. 99% of schools would kill to be Duke in the past 10 years.
However, the last few seasons, Duke has went full Kentucky – garnering over 50% of their team of one and dones – something that really hasn’t worked as well for the Blue Devils.
Now, with a roster that could produce anywhere between 5 and 7 NBA Draft picks next season, Duke needs to prove that the one and done system can also work for them. This includes R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, and Joey Baker. These are the five freshmen that will get a lot of playing time under Coach K next season, with the first four most likely starting.
The problem isn’t that Duke isn’t a winning program. It really is a question of if Duke will be able to win with one and dones.
The last few years really fell under the radar in terms of this question. Duke had big time players like Quinn Cook, Marshall Plumlee, Luke Kennard, and Grayson Allen, who were leaders on freshmen heavy Duke rosters.
This season is a bit different. Of course, Duke has upperclassmen. However, Marques Bolden will most likely be the only starter, and the weakest link in the starting five at that. Javin DeLaurier and Jack White will get some court time as well, but again have never proven that they can be locker room leaders or even contribute more than a couple points or rebounds per game.
The pressure will certainly be there for Duke to prove that they can win with young players and no true leader. It will perhaps be the toughest task for Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devil coaching staff. However, they chose to recruit players that are almost certainly one and dones before even playing one college game.
2018/19 won’t be a run away for Duke like most people think. In fact, it may be the opposite.