The promising 2020-2021 Duke basketball team: An early look

Duke basketball (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The 2020-21 season will mark the return of the juggernauts, but where will the Duke basketball program stand amongst them?

As the 2019-2020 college basketball season abruptly and unfortunately came to a close last week, due to the pandemic known as COVID-19,  it has forced us to turn our attention to the prospective power of the 2020-2021 Duke basketball team.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Just after the publishing of this article, 247Sports insider Evan Daniels reported via tweet that Duke basketball junior guard Alex O’Connell has decided to transfer. In other words, please take that into consideration when reading this article.

As with most years in the one-and-done era (2006-present), fans of the Duke Blue Devils will have to say early goodbyes to primetime performers and welcome in a new class of super-frosh.

The positives, depending on your point of view and fan-hood, is that next season will mark the return of the juggernauts in the college basketball universe. Dependent on early departures and late additions, teams like Gonzaga, Baylor, Virginia, Kentucky, Creighton, Florida State, and Duke are all shaping up to have rather dominant squads next season.

The reason for this “return to normalcy” is three-fold:

  1. The National Basketball Association’s new Early Entry legislation last year enabled a multitude of underclassmen to test the waters. Unfortunately, a great deal of them kept their name in the draft, even without an NBA Combine invite, and many were picked in the second round or went undrafted. Adding to this is the NBA’s recent shutdown due to COVID-19, which will no doubt affect the “testing the waters” process by many underclassmen.
  2. The 2019 recruiting class was inherently top-heavy and simply not as talented as the 2018 class.
  3. High school rankings are one thing, but they are insignificant once the ball hits the hardwood. Unfortunately, a fair share of the members in the 2019 class had under-performing seasons compared to their expectations.

In laymen’s terms, the noticeable talent gap between the 2018 and 2019 classes will have a corresponding effect on the 2020 season, as some of the individuals from the prior class who initially thought that they would be ready to make the leap to the NBA are no longer ready. Mix in enough returnees with upperclassmen, and we’ll have a season that is more comparable to the Year of the Zion than the one that we witnessed this past year.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but where does Duke basketball lie in all of this? Next to Kentucky and perhaps Florida State, the Blue Devils have the highest variance for next season, and I mean that completely in the sense of roster construction. Let’s get started!