The Duke Blue Devils are sitting at +1200 to win it all this season on NCAAB odds. They have flopped in the NCAA Basketball tournament two of the past three seasons.
1,000 Wins on Horizon for Coach K
Krzyzewski has to be on a very short list of the best basketball coaches in history, pro or college. Coach K is going to become the first major college coach to reach 1,000 wins this season as he's at 983. In 34 seasons at Duke, he has won four nationals championship and reached 11 Final Fours, tied for second all-time. Coach K is already is in the Hall of Fame and even has burnished his reputation with professional players in winning four gold medals as coach the USA Men's National Team. Somehow the NBA was never able to lure him, although there were reports he seriously considered taking the L.A. Lakers job a few years ago. At age 67, he's clearly going to finish his career at Duke.
Coach K has had 49 eventual NBA Draft selections play for him, including 28 first-round picks. Yet by many accounts, this year's freshman class is the best he has lured to Durham. There are four McDonald's All-Americans in the class: center Jahlil Okafor, the consensus No. 1 overall player, point guard Tyus Jones, small forward Justise Winslow and shooting guard Grayson Allen. It used to be that no players seemed to leave Duke after one season but that has changed in recent seasons with Kyrie Irving and, last year, Jabari Parker.
Parker and Rodney Hood are the two biggest departures off last year's team that finished third during the ACC regular season. The Duke Blue Devils also lost to regular-season champion Virginia in the conference tournament championship game. Duke still landed a No. 3 seed in the Big Dance and was a heavy favorite in its opener against No. 14 Mercer in Raleigh, essentially a home game for Duke. Yet senior-laden Mercer, which was in its first NCAA Tournament since 1985 by winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament, rallied from five points down in the final 4:52 to win 78-71. While Parker and Hood were terrific offensive players, even though both struggled vs. Mercer, Duke was not a good defensive team last year.
Duke hasn't reached the Final Four since winning the 2010 national title in a close call against Butler and currently sit at +700 odds at Bwin to win this season's. In 2012, the Blue Devils were a No. 2 seed and were stunned in Greensboro -- another home game basically -- by No. 15 Lehigh.
The Blue Devils were 18-16-1 against the spread on NCAA Basketball odds last year and 16-18 'over/under' at sportsbooks.
What to Expect in 2014-15
Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in being named a first-team All-America and the ACC Rookie of the Year. He pondered staying in Durham but was the No. 2 overall pick by Milwaukee in the 2014 draft. Hood averaged 16.1 points and was second-team all-ACC. He was also a first-round pick. Technically Tyler Thornton was considered a third starter and he's gone but was more of a glue guy.
Joining the stellar freshmen as returning key players are starting point guard Quinn Cook and forward Amile Jefferson in addition to guard Rasheed Sulaimon, a sometimes starter, and center Marshall Plumlee. Coach K could start Cook and Jones in a small, quick backcourt or bring one off the bench. The 6-foot-2 Cook averaged 11.6 points last year. The 6-foot-9 Jefferson averaged 6.5 points and 6.9 rebounds but often had very little post help because Plumlee didn't very much. Thus Okafor will start from Day 1 and he's the early favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick next June. There are a total of nine McDonald's All-Americans on this roster, tying Kentucky for the most.
Duke opens the season in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Nov. 14 against Presbyterian in Durham. The Blue Devils just about never lose a non-conference home game at Cameron Indoor. They have won 101 straight there in that scenario and will be betting favorites in every one again this season at sportsbooks. The big non-conference tests will be Nov. 18 against Michigan State in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis; Nov. 21 against Temple in Brooklyn in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic; a matchup the next night in the Coaches vs. Cancer against either Stanford or UNLV; a Dec. 3 matchup at Wisconsin, the Big Ten favorite on NCAA basketball odds; and Dec. 18 against defending national champion UConn in East Rutherford, N.J. Duke opens ACC play on Jan. 3 vs. Boston College. It plays new conference member Louisville once: Jan. 17 in Kentucky. Syracuse is on the schedule twice in the regular season: Feb. 14 in upstate New York and Feb. 28 in Durham. As usual, the regular season ends vs. rival North Carolina, this time in Chapel Hill.
NCAAB Free Pick
Duke will be the favorite to win the ACC on NCAA basketball odds. North Carolina is likely to be the top challenger at sportsbooks, followed by Louisville, Virginia and Syracuse. It's tough to forecast Duke because the freshmen will play such a big role. This team does have Final Four talent, but I'm not willing to place a College Basketball pick on them winning the ACC regular-season title. The team will need time to jell. Duke hasn’t won the ACC regular season outright since 2006.