The long awaited Duke Basketball season is well underway, and there is a lot to talk about. The Blue Devils are off to a good start at 8-1 and here are my 5 takeaways thus far!
1) Grayson Allen One Hit Wonder? LOL.
I don’t think much needs to be said on this takeaway. For those who think Allen still hasn’t proven his publicity… he can’t do much more than winning a National Championship and coming back the next year leading a top 10 team in scoring. The kid can do it all, and is still improving. Since his tough go against Kentucky, he has improved tremendously by incorporating more jump shots, floaters, and three-pointers into his game. He’s nothing short of a monster.
2) There is apparently much less depth than we thought…
Although Jeter is seeing some action, K has only give significant minutes to 7 players thus far. What was thought to be a deep front court with Plumlee, Jefferson, Jeter, Obi, and possibly Vrankovic, has turned into a two man show. Vrank and Obi are averaging a combined 5.5 min/game, exclusively in garbage time, and Jeter has only seen limited action. As ACC play is approaching, expect more from Jeter, although there is no sign that time will increase for Obi or Vrankovic. When Duke battles teams like UNC with elite big men like Kennedy Meeks, Plumlee and Jefferson will need some relief from the bench.
3) Don’t compare these freshmen to last years.
Last year’s freshmen class of Okafor, Jones, Winslow, and Allen was simply insane. This year’s freshmen class is loaded with talent, but there will be growing pains. Kennard is an outstanding player with incredible scoring instincts, but he is still settling in to the speed and defense of the college level. He has shown he deserves to be out there, despite having a fairly cold start to his college career. It took a few games for Ingram to wake up as well. The talent is there, and his upside is mind-blowing, but he needs to get adjusted to the physicality of the college game. As for Jeter, his defense must improve for more time, but he will be a great big in the near future. Thornton is off to a solid start considering he should really be a senior in high school.
4) The upperclassmen are poised.
The trio of captains (Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson, and Marshall Plumlee), have been no short of incredible. They have done all and more that has been asked from them, and expect this throughout the season. Jefferson has proven to be a top class rebounder in the past, but his post game has improved drastically. In addition he has put on more muscle in the weight room. Marshall Plumlee got off to an incredibly hot start in the first few games of the season including the Kentucky game. Him and Amile’s rim protecting ability creates a much better paint defense than last year. And what a start for Matt Jones, averaging 13.3 ppg, and has already set a new career high in points in a game. Every time the offense struggles, Matt seems to hit a huge three.
5) I’m not saying look ahead to next year, but damn…
Coach K has put together another incredible collection of talent this year. Every game, the team seems to be play better together, and I could see this group making a deep run in March if the freshmen continue to progress and if we can get a bit more from the bench. In terms of next year… wow. The recruiting class of 2016 seems to be coming to a close with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, and Javin Delaurier. That is one heck of a class, and to add a sophomore Kennard, Thornton, and Jeter into the mix, that team could be the best in years. If all goes as planned in terms of the draft, the upperclassmen won’t be too shabby either: a junior Grayson Allen and a senior Matt Jones. In addition, who knows how Obi and Vrankovic will progress in a year. Expect Ingram to be gone, but that team is shaping up to be spectacular.