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ACC Basketball Preview: Duke

Quick Facts

2005-06
Record: 32-4 , 14-2 in the ACC
ACC Regular Season Finish: 1st
ACC Tournament Result: Champion
NCAA Tournament Result: Lost in the Sweet Sixteen

Players and Coaches
Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, 26th year at Duke, 680-191. 31st year overall, 753-250

Key Returnees: F Josh McRoberts(8.7 ppg), DeMarcus Nelson(7.1 ppg), Greg Paulus(6.7 ppg)

Preseason Rankings
Poll Rankings: AP: #11, USA Today/ESPN: #12
ACC Preseason Poll: 2nd

Outlook

What do they always say? Duke does not rebuild they just reload. In this case, it will require one of Mike Krzyzewski's more masterful coaching jobs though in all honesty he has more in the pantry than Roy Williams did last season. Josh McRoberts, who arguably may be one of the most talented and versatile big men in the ACC, will get every chance to show his goods now that J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams are on an NBA payroll somewhere. Of course the only other returnees with any experience are point guard Greg Paulus and shooting guard DeMarcus Nelson. Paulus has been nursing a foot injury but may be available for their opener. So Duke has a strong trio which will be supported by yet another stellar freshman class. Guards Gerald Henderson and Jon Scheyer along with forward Lance Thomas headline a class which is scary in its own right. Scheyer and Henderson all tall guards who can shoot while Thomas might be more of a rebounder than offensive threat. The real wildcard in that class is seven footer Brian Zoubek who could end up being a very important piece. For one, the college game has moved away from the taller centers, mainly because they all went pro. That being said, Duke has never really relied on a lot height at center just look at Shelden Williams and Carlos Boozer. The other aspect of Zoubek is how much he forces McRoberts out of the paint to shoot threes and be a general nuisance as a 6-9 player who can take other big men off the dribble. The less time McRoberts has his back to the basket the better off Duke will be. Duke will be concerned about depth since they run about seven or eight deep.

THF Prediction

Okay, enough of the professional spirit of the previous section. This is Duke and well I hope, just really hope the wheels come flying off this wagon before the end of January. Unfortunately that is not going to happen because Duke is one of those teams the refuses to have a bad year and if they do the coach had a bad back and exits stage left. Krzyzewski has more to work with here than Roy Williams did last season with better incoming freshman talent. Having McRoberts, Paulus, and Nelson as a core to surround with fourth best recruiting class in the nation means that Duke is still going to be good because despite my red hot dislike of Krzyzewski it cannot be argued that he is not a great coach, the numbers tend to be pesky that way. So if UNC can finish second in the ACC with a worse hand dealt than Duke has this season then it stands to reason Duke will do the same. I can only hope for a sweep for the first time since 1996.

Prediction: 27-4 overall, 13-3 in the ACC for 2nd. NCAA Tournament