What flaws stick out when looking at the Duke basketball roster for 2016-17?
The Duke Blue Devils are flat out loaded.
Between having one of the best coaches in all of sports roaming the sidelines and the best roster in college basketball since the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, the Blue Devils are the clear favorite to win the 2017 National Championship.
They will open up the AP Preseason Poll as the top team in the country and are likely to win the ACC regular season and conference tournament titles.
While their roster has very few gaps, it would be a major surprise if they finished undefeated. The ACC is the best conference in college basketball and the depth of the league will almost assuredly trip up the Blue Devils multiple times.
But there have been interesting comparisons. One came from Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, who told Jon Rothstein that this year’s version of the Blue Devils is similar to the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats, who Pitino once coached.
“They’ve got a fifth-year guy (Amile Jefferson) who’s a terrific rebounder and basketball player and they’ve got great shooting, great coaching and a great system,” Pitino said. “They’ve got it all. They’re very deep and they’ve got two of the best in Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles — the one-and-two ranked high school players in the nation. They’re as good of a team as I’ve seen in the modern era.”
When breaking down the roster, you can see why Pitino and others have such high praise.
Coach K has an excellent combination of veterans and explosive, high IQ youngsters.
We’ll start with the returnees who are headlined by the Blue Devils’ leading scorer from last season, guard Grayson Allen. Allen averaged 21.6 points per game and was one of the top players in the ACC.
Center Amile Jefferson, a fifth year senior, was arguably the team’s most valuable player before he suffered a foot injury that knocked him out for the rest of the season. Sharp shooter Luke Kennard and lock down defender and three-point shooting stud Matt Jones return as role players. Finally, sophomore forward Chase Jeter will come off the bench as a capable rebounder and finisher inside.
Meanwhile, Duke’s recruiting class is the best in nation (Kentucky is number one in some recruiting service websites as well). The Blue Devils add four future pros, Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson and Marques Bolden, and two players who will likely be the key to the future in Javin DeLaurier and Jack White.
Giles is the potential number one pick in 2017 NBA Draft if he can stay healthy, while Tatum and Bolden could turn out to be one-and-done lottery picks.
So, yes, Duke has the deepest and most dangerous roster in the nation.
But they do have some concerns and questions that will need to be answered before they are ready for March.
This team is not unbeatable.