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The preseason No. 7 team in the country did not quite live up to expectations in the regular season, but it wasn’t all bad under first-year head coach Jon Scheyer. His Blue Devils finished tied for third in the ACC and picked up notable wins against Xavier, Iowa, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, and most importantly, North Carolina twice.
Duke is a very young team, starting four freshmen in its most common starting five. The Blue Devils do have a few seniors sprinkled in, but most of their production comes from their youth. If Duke is to win the national championship and reach its second-straight Final Four, those youngsters will carry much of the burden.
Last National Championship: 2015
Last Final Four: 2022
2023 Title Odds: +5000 (as of March 9, 2023)
Why Duke Will Make a Run
Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively II, and Kyle Filipowski were all ranked No. 1, 2, and 4 in the RSCI Class of 2022, respectively. They haven’t been the collectively dominant force that was perhaps expected of them, but we’ve seen teams comprised of highly-ranked recruits struggle relatively in the regular season only for it to come together spectacularly in March as they become more comfortable with the college level. That could describe 2023 Duke.
This team isn’t all recruiting rankings. Duke is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, averaging the 12th-most boards per contest in Division I (39.3) and ranking in the top 20 for offensive rebounds per game, too (12.6). Filipowski is Duke’s best on the glass, hauling in more than nine boards per night, but it’s a true team effort from the Blue Devils, as it is with any great rebounding side. As Pat Summitt once said, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.”
Why Duke Will Exit Early
This isn’t Coach K’s Duke anymore. Scheyer is his disciple, but he’s not the same man. Really, we don’t know what we’re going to get with him and his program now that one of the most legendary coaches in all of sports isn’t the one running practice or making decisions in-game. Krzyzewski had decades upon decades of experience to draw from every time he took one of his teams into the tournament. Scheyer doesn’t have anywhere close to that.
The Blue Devils aren’t a great shooting team. They’re just 44.4 percent from the field as a squad for the season and have connected on only 32.9 percent of their triples. Considering how close he often is to the basket when he shoots, Filipowski’s field-goal percent isn’t pretty, and Duke as a whole simply lacks effectiveness on the offensive end – it ranks outside of the top 60 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom and T-Rank. Bad shots are just turnovers in disguise, and that’s a recipe for implosion in the NCAA Tournament.
What It’ll Take to Win
It is crucial that Jeremy Roach have a good tournament for Duke to have a shot at winning the national championship. He is the only non-freshman in the team’s starting five, and his composure as the primary ball-handler will do a lot in dictating how Duke does in the Dance.
This is Duke’s first Coach K-less season since well before any of these players were born, let alone thoughts in their parents’ minds. His shadow still looms over the program, and it will for years to come, but it’s naturally at its largest immediately following his retirement. This team can’t get caught up in the Duke of the past, which would only add undue pressure to an already pressure-filled situation. How Scheyer handles his first March is something Duke fans, haters, and neutrals alike are anxiously awaiting.