No. 16 Duke

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 (AP)  
 
By Gary Parrish | College Basketball Insider

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Career record: 927-289 at Army and Duke

Best NCAA Tournament finish: National Championship at Duke in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010.

Vital Info: No. 16 Duke
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Years at current school: 32

Last season's record: 27-7 (lost to Lehigh in Round of 64)

Notable losses from last season: Austin Rivers, Miles Plumlee, Andre Dawkins (redshirting this season)

Notable returnees from last season: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston

Notable newcomers: Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, Marshall Plumlee

Projected starters: G: Quinn Cook G: Seth Curry F: Alex Murphy F: Ryan Kelly F: Mason Plumlee

Why this team will be good: This team will be good because it's Duke coached by Mike Krzyzweski, and Duke coached by Mike Krzyzewski is almost always good -- proof being that the Blue Devils have finished no worse than tied for second in the ACC in 14 of the past 16 seasons. Yes, I know the roster isn't great by historical Duke standards, but Mason Plumlee is a future pro who nearly averaged a double-double last season, and Seth Curry is a reliable shooter who doubles as Duke's leading returning scorer. Is he as gifted as his brother or father? No. But he's good enough. And if he's not then Duke has Rasheed Sulaimon -- a 6-foot-4 freshman guard with a reputation as a nice shooter and big-time scorer in general. Sulaimon could come off the bench or eventually start. Either way, he's one of Duke's best talents. He'll play major minutes in some form.

Why this team might disappoint: Remember how I wrote this roster isn't great by historical Duke standards? The truth is that that's true, and it'll take some real magic from Coach K to avoid slipping. North Carolina has better players. North Carolina State has better players, too. Even Duke's 2010 national championship team that many suggested didn't have elite talent had much better talent than this roster, and the biggest problem might be at point guard. Is Quinn Cook good enough? What about Tyler Thornton? Neither has shown the ability to be great to date, and neither is surrounded by enough talent to the point where it's unnecessary to be really good. To be clear, I won't be surprised if Duke finishes in the top two of the ACC for the 15th time in 17 seasons. But that's only because of how much I believe in Krzyzewski as a coach. The roster has me worried.

Bottom line: Duke's roster doesn't feature any established stars or newcomers who project as immediate stars, so it's important that Mason Plumlee takes the so-called next step, that Seth Curry shoots the ball as well as or even better than he's shot it in the past, and that Rasheed Sulaimon is really good right from the jump. Those things happening will give Duke a chance at an ACC title. Those things not happening will push Duke below the Tar Heels and Wolfpack in the ACC standings, and Duke fans don't want to spend February below North Carolina and North Carolina State in the ACC standings. Either way, it's all relative. Duke may or may not be great. That's a fair debate. But Duke won't be bad regardless. Even the worst case scenario has the Blue Devils as a Top 25 team and safely back in the Field of 68 with a chance to advance in the bracket.

Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "They're just another good team in the country if not for Coach K and the name Duke. Lots of questions at point guard. But they'll still win a lot and have a shot at a league championship. They always do no matter who they have. But I do think their ceiling is a little lower than usual."

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