School is back in session. The pools have closed. Here, in my hometown of Cincinnati, the temperature has cooled. Football starts this weekend. Summer is over and fall has begun. Most importantly, Duke basketball is right around the corner!
Duke had quite the summer. Note, it was quite the summer rather than a quiet summer.
The basketball team was supposed to take a little trip to the Dominican Republic. Instead, in early August, Coach K underwent knee replacement surgery. Unfortunately, it was Coach K’s 6th surgery in only 17 months. The end of his career isn’t here yet – not with another stellar recruiting class coming in 2018 – but the end is not too far away. If I was forced to guess, I would say Coach K only has 3 or 4 more seasons remaining.
Only a day after Coach K’s surgery, Duke fans received some great news – Tre Jones (Tyus’ younger brother) committed to Duke for 2018. Jones is a rising Top-10 recruit. He will help fill the void left behind by Grayson Allen and, in all likelihood, Trevon Duval after next year.
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Then, the very next day, Duke received even better news – Marvin Bagley committed to Duke! And he reclassified to play this year! The hype on Bagley is off the charts. He’s been called the best recruit since Lebron James. He’s been compared to Anthony Davis and Chris Bosh. Duke’s odds to win the National Championship vaulted from 7-1 to 3-1 overnight. It’s a huge boon for this Duke team. Before Bagley, a National Championship was probably out of reach for an incredibly young team. Now, while the youth persists, the talent may be overwhelming and Duke enters the 2017 as the favorite to cut down the nets.
Coach K maintained the recruiting momentum when Cameron Reddish committed to Duke on September 1. Reddish is a consensus top-5 recruit in the 2018 class. With Reddish and Jones in the fold, Duke looks set to contend for another National Championship in two years.
Now, back to the 2017-2018 team, the brakes should be pumped a little on Bagley and the team as a whole. First, Bagley has not been officially cleared by the NCAA to play this year. I expect Duke and Coach K know he will be cleared before the season but there are no guarantees. Second, while Bagley’s highlights are stunning, a lot of the plays seem to show Bagley dunking on smaller, less athletic opponents. It is yet to be seen if he is ready for the speed and physicality of college basketball. Remember the hype surrounding Harry Giles? Bagley is in a much different situation than Giles and he should immediately be an elite player in the ACC but let’s not act a National Championship is guaranteed with Bagley’s addition.
As for this Duke team, questions persist. Can Grayson Allen put his tripping ways behind him and lead? Will Allen regain the shooting touch he showed two years ago? Can Duke overcome its youth? I have certainly never watched a Duke team this young. Is Duval the point guard Duke has been missing the past two seasons? Can Duke defend like 2010 or 2001 teams? Or will Duke scramble all year to solve defensive woes like in 2015 (when it worked) or 2017 (when it failed)?
It’s too early to make predictions but I’ll say this…. The upcoming season will be less tumultuous than last season. Duke will be a pulsating team to watch and, at times, this young team will frustrate us. November 10th can’t get here soon enough!