Top 5 Storylines for Duke Basketball During 2016-17 Season

The expectations are very high for the Duke Basketball team this year. What are the top storylines to follow throughout the college basketball season?

The Duke Men’s Basketball team will kickoff the 2016-17 regular season tonight. The Blue Devils will host back to back games against Marist and Grand Canyon tonight and tomorrow as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

The Blue Devils will be one of the focal points of the NCAA this season ranked as the top preseason team and projected to win the 2017 national championship. They have been compared to historically great teams, praised by opposing coaches, have one of the best coaches coming off an Olympic gold medal, and players that are the most desired by NCAA coaches, compared to former Duke Basketball greats, and projected to be top scorers at their position this season.

Here are our top 5 storylines for Duke Basketball fans to follow this season as the team competes for the program’s sixth national title.

National Title Expectations

Duke is the favorite to win the 2017 NCAA National Championship and is the top-ranked team in pretty much every preseason poll. The collection of freshman talent, upperclassmen with championship experience, improvement of returning players, and great coaching led to the high expectations for the Blue Devils this season.

Duke will be one of the biggest stories throughout the NCAA season and featured in several of the top college basketball games this year. The question will be how well can they handle the pressure? The team has not shied away from the national title expectations, and many college basketball fans will be tuning in to either root for or against the Blue Devils this year.

Injuries

The main question mark for the Blue Devils this season will be health of players. Duke is already experiencing some minor issues with injuries, with star freshman Harry Giles expected to miss the start of the season after a minor knee procedure, five-star wing Jayson Tatum injuring his foot in practice missing the exhibition games but expected to return today, and top freshman center Marques Bolden ruled questionable with a lower leg injury. Additionally, guards Grayson Allen and Matt Jones were also dinged up during the preseason. At full strength Duke will be extremely hard to beat, but injuries to key players have the potential to negatively impact the season.

Grayson Allen

Junior shooting guard Grayson Allen will be one of the most watched and scrutinized college basketball players this season. He was one of the heroes for Duke in the 2015 National Championship game, was one of the most improved players in the country between his freshman and sophomore year, and returned to school after being considered a first round NBA draft pick. Allen also caused some controversy last season by tripping players and is considered to be the next Duke villain, although we view him as a hero.

Allen will play a major role for the Blue Devils this season as a leader for a young team. He’s the player other NCAA coaches most want to have on their roster and is expected to be one of the top players in college basketball. He was selected as a preseason All-American, is projected to win the 2017 ACC Player of the Year award, and is considered one of the favorites to win National Player of the Year. Many fans will be checking in to see how Grayson Allen performs this season with Duke Basketball as the best player on the top team in the nation.

Freshmen

Mike Krzyzewski and the coaching staff have done a great job of recruiting recently, with the Blue Devils bringing in another top recruiting class. We’ve already previewed how dominant five-star freshmen Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles can be this season, but fans also shouldn’t sleep on the rest of the freshman class who can have a big impact this season.

Frank Jackson will play a key role at guard on and off the ball this season. He had several great performance during the exhibition games and will be able to make an impact as a scorer and defender. Marques Bolden will record minutes at center and will be able to provide post scoring and rebounding for the Blue Devils. Forward Javin DeLaurier has also impressed early on, showing off his hustle and hard work ethic during the preseason games.

Team Strategy

Coach K will have some interesting decisions to make with the roster this season, especially when everyone is healthy. The main weakness for this team other than injuries is the lack of a true point guard, so who will be the primary ball handler? Who starts at guard with Grayson Allen between Frank Jackson/Matt Jones/Luke Kennard? Which two players start in the post between a healthy Harry Giles/Amile Jefferson/Marques Bolden? Who will get minutes off the bench between Chase Jeter/Javin DeLaurier/the forward not starting?

There will also be questions about the game plan for the Blue Devils this year. The Blue Devils have a very versatile roster that could play up-tempo with the guards, slow down the pace and play through the post, heavy pick-and-roll, etc. Krzyzewski usually has a pretty tight rotation and game plan, but has been flexible recently including implementing zone defenses the last few seasons.These will be key for Duke Basketball’s success and interesting for fans to look forward to this season.

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