No. 1 Duke Blue Devils
This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Read scouting reports on every team in the top 20 here, and find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.
Grayson Allen had one priority this off-season: reduce his sugar intake. Duke’s leading scorer admits that eliminating the sweet drinks he loves was a huge challenge, but doing it helped him drop 10 pounds. “I feel quicker,” the 6' 5″, 202-pound junior says. “I’m not walking into the gym feeling sluggish. That’s going to be big—if I’m able to stay fresh game to game.”
The player of the year candidate’s load will be lighter in more ways than one. Four of the Blue Devils’ top five scorers are back, and they’re joined by four of the country’s top 13 freshmen, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. A deep rotation and a diversified offense make it less crucial for Allen to match his 2015–16 average of 21.6 points, which he racked up over a bone-wearying 1,317 minutes (seventh most in Division I).
A leaner frame has also led to a quicker first step. That, plus Allen’s improved ballhandling, can make him “more creative off the bounce,” says associate head coach Jeff Capel. Meanwhile Duke has managed Allen’s practice reps to make sure he can maintain ample energy to move without the ball and attack defensive closeouts.
With added help and fewer pounds, one of the country’s most potent scorers can vary his angles and force fewer shots. “The way I look at it, I should be more efficient than I was last year,” Allen says. Expect that to weigh heavily on the rest of D-I.
X-Factor: Freshman forward Harry Giles
After three knee surgeries in the last three years, including an Oct. 3 procedure to clean up scar tissue, Harry Giles remains a 6' 10″ question mark. If healthy, he’s talented enough to be the NBA’s top draft pick.
Coach’s Take: Jeff Capel, associate head coach
“I think we can be more versatile than we were last year offensively. Really, our offense last season was dictated by two guys—Grayson and Brandon [Ingram]. We’ll have more scoring options. Having Amile [Jefferson] back out there, he gives us something we didn’t have from the time he got hurt—he’s a great offensive rebounder. For us that’s another way to get points. Jayson [Tatum] is a really talented offensive player and can do it in a variety of ways. We have the depth, we have the athleticism, we have the size and length to be a really good defensive team. That has to be a point of emphasis for us. We’d like to be able to pressure, full-court, to get after people, get in passing lanes. We have versatility where we can do some different things with how we switch stuff and keep fresh bodies in. To be honest, I think that’s an area where we can hang our hat.”
Projected Depth Chart
Projected ACC Standings
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