The Duke Blue Devils relied way too much on Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood last season; not just because they were great college players, but because the backcourt could not be trusted enough to keep opponents on their heels in key moments.
Now, with another great recruiting class and key returning starters stepping onto the court for the 2014-15 NCAA basketball season, the pressure will rightfully rest on the shoulders of Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and freshman Tyus Jones.
Cook is coming off a solid 2013-14 season where he averaged more than 11 PPG, but saw his assist totals drop off from 5.3 to 4.4 APG between his sophomore and junior seasons. He will need to boost that number. He should be able to do that with freshman big man star Jahlil Okafor expected to have a monster first year under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Joining Cook will be Sulaimon coming back for his junior year. He is another player who showed at times that he could be a major contributor, but saw his scoring numbers drop from 11.6 to 9.9 PPG between his freshman and sophomore years. Sulaimon does not necessarily have to make a substantial leap in his scoring, but he does need to be more efficient. The guard shot only 40 percent from the field last year.
The starting backcourt will be filled out by standout freshman Jones, who was one of the most celebrated high school recruits and was considered by many scouts as the No. 1 point guard in his class. Jones will immediately take to the court as the team’s floor leader. While he is young, his game is very mature. He will transition into the college game with ease, and if he can come close to meeting expectations, the Blue Devils will compete for a national title.
Duke may have had a lot of hype last season with Parker, but with two star freshman starting and a solid group of guards returning, the Blue Devils may be a better team this upcoming season.