The Duke Blue Devils might not have had a great run defending their title in this year’s tournament. It was, however, a fairly good effort for a roster that was beset by injuries and left Mike Krzyzewski playing a seven-man rotation down the stretch and into this year’s tournament. That will all change next year, though, when Duke gets an infusion of young talent and the return of some key players.
Brandon Ingram unsurprisingly declared for the NBA draft, and he could be the top pick overall. Losing Ingram would hurt any program, but Duke is getting forwards Harry Giles and Gatorade Player of the Year Jayson Tatum, ranked the top high school prospects in the nation. Those two will be joined by McDonald’s All-American Game Co-MVP and Slam Dunk Contest Winner guard Frank Jackson who is another blue chip prospect. Those three will take the floor alongside Grayson Allen and medical redshirt Amile Jefferson who should both return.
That isn’t all. Luke Kennard, Derryck Thornton and Chase Jeter should all return as sophomores. Matt Jones should return as a senior. All told, this could be one of the deepest Duke teams to ever take the floor. Expectations will be high right off the bat, but this next Duke team could be one of the best Coach K has ever coached.
Opening tip on the 2016-17 season is still a long way off, and there are still a lot of unknowns about next year’s team. There could be surprise defections to the NBA and injuries are always a concern. Then there is the chance that the incoming freshmen take a while to gel as happened with this year’s team.
Despite the questions, Duke has the talent to overcome most obstacles thrown in their path. They also have one of the greatest coaches in history at the helm. No wonder everyone is picking them as their ridiculously early No. 1. Those predictions might seem too early, but there is a good chance it will make a lot of people look very smart. Duke is poised to make another title run, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.