Favored Duke Could Ride Recruiting Class to Championship

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 3:35 PM UTC

Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2018 3:35 PM UTC

With the 2017-18 season now a memory, the Duke basketball program forges ahead and begins preparation for another campaign with a new cast of characters.

College Basketball: Duke Reloading, not Rebuilding

Being a top-flight basketball coach at any level requires two things. You have to be a teacher, and you must be adaptable and willing to change.

Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski has always had both of those traits. When other coaches have gotten to this point in their careers, they tend to stick with what they are most comfortable with and slowly fade away. Kryzewski has not followed that path, instead keeping Duke at the highest level because of his willingness to change.

When Kentucky was having such success with the "one and done" recruiting approach, Coach K had the faith in himself that he, too, could coach teach ultra-talented players to play for the team and still win championships.

Krzyzewski's Olympic and international basketball experience, in which he saw Jim Boeheim's vaunted 2-3 zone principles in action on a daily basis, gave him another option defensively when his Duke players struggled in man-to-man defense. That defense along with Coach K's adjustments keyed last season's turnaround.

Staying on Track with Incredible Recruiting Class

With all of last year's freshman class expected to leave, Duke is bringing in four of the top 10 recruits in the country, including the top three (https://247sports.com/Article/Does-Duke-have-the-best-class-in-modern-recruiting-history-114169089). No wonder 5Dimes and other sportsbooks have made the Blue Devils the favorites on the NCAAB odds board to win the 2018-19 national championship -- ahead of reigning champ Villanova, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Numbers 1 thru 3 on nearly everyone's recruiting board are R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, and Zion Williamson. The "pauper" of the class is Tre Jones at No. 9 nationally, and he's listed as the top point guard from this year's senior high school class.

While no one will question Duke's talent, the question of leadership will apply. Until senior Grayson Allen became the point guard, the Blue Devils were rudderless the first couple months of the season. Maybe Jones steps in and embraces that role.

Being a Blue Blood Has its Advantages

The NCAA, in conjunction with ESPN, has announced the continuation of the Champions Classic (State Farm is the title sponsor). For the eighth straight year, the same four teams will participate. (Maybe next year Villanova should be invited?)

On Nov. 6 in Indianapolis, Michigan State and Kansas will face off, and Duke's new lineup will play Kentucky.

Though Duke is not the only path for elite players to reach the NBA and play top-level competition before turning professional, it's one of the best. That is why the Blue Devils reload instead of having to rebuild.

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