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October 29, 2009
The Blue Devils headed into the offseason as an obvious top-10 pick, but they didn't have a particularly enjoyable summer. Duke lost its best player when Gerald Henderson entered the NBA draft. The Blue Devils also must replace guard Elliot Williams, who transferred home to Memphis to be closer to his ailing mother. Suddenly, things don't look quite as promising in Durham, though Duke still seems equipped for a postseason run.
Jon Scheyer will look to give Duke something to shout about this season.
Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek give the Blue Devils plenty of experience. Singler averaged 16.5 points and 7.7 rebounds last season to earn second-team All-ACC honors. Neither Thomas nor Zoubek is a star, but each offers toughness and senior leadership. Thomas' ability to defend players at multiple positions makes him particularly valuable. Sophomore Miles Plumlee and freshmen Ryan Kelly (the No. 20 prospect in the nation) and Mason Plumlee (No. 55) also could have major roles.
The losses of Henderson and Williams leave Duke perilously thin here. The only two returning scholarship guards are Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. Scheyer came on strong late last season after moving to point guard; the Blue Devils need a big season from him. Smith made 21 starts and ranked fourth on the team in scoring last season. True freshman Andre Dawkins originally was set to be a high school senior this year, but he accelerated his coursework and entered college early. He has good size and must contribute immediately. The lack of depth in the backcourt could cause Duke to make Singler more of a perimeter player. "You adjust to the people you have," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I don't see us picking up fullcourt man and dogging somebody with Kyle on a 5-11 guy. We're not going to do that. You just figure out a little bit different way of playing your defense, and I think it's exciting."
The lack of backcourt depth is a major concern. The Blue Devils are in major trouble if Scheyer, Singler or Smith gets hurt. Krzyzewski always makes the most of the talent on his roster, but the backcourt situation could force him to get creative. We're guessing he figures out a way to guide Duke to 20-plus wins and a spot in the Sweet 16.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.