Lots of reason for optimism. We're still, in a "worst reasonable case" scenario, a sure-fire tournament team with at least one if not more All-ACC quality players returning and a couple of terrific players coming in. That's worst-case. There's also the chance that (a) another All-ACC player returns and/or (b) we get another recruit/transfer or two that change the dynamics of the team. We still have lots of talent, lots of experience, and a fantastic coach.
Granted, there are definitely some concerns. But I have nothing but optimism that Coach K will get them figured out.
I also see a ton of reason to look forward to next season. I'm still operating under the assumptions (and you know what an assumption makes out of u and me...) that Rivers really is gone, Mason is coming back, and that we may get Jefferson but will not get either Bazz or Parker. I see that as kind of a mid-view of possibilities - we don't lose both underclassmen, but we don't get all our targets either.
With that in mind how do we stand? Pretty well.
1) The 1: We went this year without a really good solution at the point. We bring in no one new next year, but Quinn Cook could, and should, be a very different player next year than he was this year. Basically, he goes from being injured freshman to (hopefully) healthy sophomore. So, unless his evaluations as a recruit were wayyyyyyy off, we should have a very serviceable starting PG next season. Tyler is a worker, a classic lunchpail kid, but I think his ceiling is to be a defensive guy who can fill in at the point...he probably won't become a consistent scoring threat or a really good playmaker. Quinn needs to improve his D, but he all can see the potential, if he's healthy, and with work, to become a nice combo PG.
2) The 2: No Austin? Not going to say no problem, because an NBA talent is always good to have around. But Curry will be a senior and has shown that, while he does go into slumps, he can be a nice offensive threat. Dawkins has one more year to find the consistency and defensive effort he's been lacking. It'll be nice if he gets that going, but not essential. Sulaimon is a freshman, and with the rare exception (Irving, Rivers) you don't expect freshmen to carry the load...but from what we're hearing the kid can play, and he should compete for minutes at the 2.
3) The 3: I may be wrong, but I think Murphy is going to get a lot of minutes here. G should as well. 2 different guys, 2 strengths. We go from a team with no legitimate small forward, to a team with (assuming G and Murphy both develop their games over the summer) 2 legitimate small forwards.
4) The 4: Start Kelly, sub in Josh. I'll take that all day long. I'm excited to see what Kelly brings his senior year. The kid could very well be 1st team all-ACC.
5) The 5: Come on back, Mason. Starting Mason and subbing in Marshall will give us a very strong low-post. It'll also give Marshall a chance to develop without having to carry the load.
6) Defense: This will be the biggest question again, and there are a million questions here. Can Cook upgrade his on-ball D to keep himself on the court, where we will probably need him to keep the offense humming? Curry's not a bad defender, but he needs to improve. So does Dre (needless to say). How about Rasheed...is he ready to come play Duke D? How about Alex? G has the athleticism, and should be a very good defensive option at the small forward. Our interior guys get slammed for their D, but when the perimeter is letting guards into the lane, it puts the bigs into an almost impossible position. We need to improve our D at every position. Without a bunch of new bodies, can we do that? YES. Our D was NOT our problem the last 3 weeks of the season. We went from about Kenpom 100 to Kenpom 50. The guys were finally getting it. Now we bring most of them back. We need to be better. But we can be.
Hey, this team is not going to start the season top 5, we're not going to come in as a juggernaut. We're going to have to develop the talent we have. The five fingers will NEED to become that fist. But there is the potential there. For those who expect Duke to be the best team in the ACC and a final four contender coming out of the gate every season, you may want to look away and check the standings about February 1 to see if it's worth tuning in. For those of us who get excited about seeing the process of a team coming together, realizing that potential is not always filled but expectations are sometimes exceeded, it should be a really fun season.
If the underclassmen at Chapa Heeya all come back, UNC is going to be a beast. If, as I expect, Barnes and Henson go, UNC will be good, but will be at a level that I think Carolina, Duke, and (assuming the freshmen are as good as advertised) State will compete for the regular season title. 3 of the Big 4 fighting on roughly even terms in the ACC? Man, I'm expecting to start hearing Van Halen, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson on Top 40 radio...
Brian Zoubek on what was going through his mind walking to the free throw line with 3.6 seconds remaining in the 2010 National Championship game and Duke up by 1: "Fifty percent [of me is] thinking, This is what I've been dreaming of doing my entire life. Fifty percent I'm crapping my pants."
an "optimist" is just someone who hasn't checked their email yet.....
i'm ALWAYS an optimist...
"Either we're going down, or they are....... Kirk out!"
By the way, Zoubek's basketball IQ was a high as anyone else's on that team; his speed, determination, stamina, selflessness, and skill in setting multiple screens on nearly every half court set (how many fouls do you recall being called against him for setting an improper screen) were remarkable.
For next year... MARSHALL PLUMLEE!!!! Maybe not Zoubs role, but in his own role... YES!!!
My question though is , who is going to rebound if Mason leaves ? Actually who will rebound , other than Mason, even if he stays...Kelley, Marshall ?
As I said on another post, Coach K and staff should do everything they can to get Oriaki who would make a huge difference.
Does anyone else find it odd that this thread has only 2 pages while the thread discussing Duke's problems has 6 or 7?
Ryan has improved significantly the past 2 years, and I expect to see more next year.
Seth has the talent to be a great college guard.
Quinn is full of potential, as soon as he figures out defense and his knee recovers.
I fully expect to see a top 10 team next year, but I don't call that optimism. I was bullish on this team all year, and I like our returning players a lot. Especially now that they don't have to defer to a freshman.
A possible starting 5 of:
Quin Cook - Elite Passer who should improve his quickness and lateral speed following a year of rehab after knee surgery
Andre Dawkins - One of the purest shooters in the land with good size and athleticism as a senior with motivation to prove he can be consistent
Michael Gbinije - Physically gifted sophomore with smarts and a year of experience in the system
Ryan Kelly - Highly skilled 6-11(!) senior captain with a variety of skills, great range out to the 3 point arc and a high basketball IQ
Mason Plumlee - In the discussion as a 1st or 2nd team all American, one of the great rebounders in Duke history and also in the conversation as one of the most athletic bigs Duke has ever had
THAT is a starting 5 with skills, athleticism, and experience.
Oh...and we have a bench of:
Tyler Thornton - Tenacious defender and leader. Sets an example day in and day out. Relentless in practice and games, making his teammates better. Improving 3 pt. shooter
Seth Curry - Highly skilled and very crafty 5th year senior guard with excellent range and an improving mid-range shot. Known for steady/heady play and spurts of brilliance
Alex Murphy - Highly touted red-shirt freshmen, who is noted for his versatile skill set. Has very good size and is still growing. Added strength and familiarity with the system with the red shirt year.
Josh Hairston - Physical junior who has consistently exhibited great energy, good hands, and a good jump shot. Willing to mix it up and is a positive contributor in practice and in games.
Marshall Plumlee - Redshirt freshmen, with loads of moxie and a personality that exudes confidence. 7 footer with above average athleticism and a year of experience in the system.
Oh ... and we have recruits....
Rasheed and others, welcome to one heck of a team. The second 5 alone as starters would be in the upper division of the ACC next year with talent, experience, and skill.
Oh....and....er....we have a pretty good coaching staff with a man who leads the conversation on greatest basketball coaches of all time.
Nah, I don't think there is cause for optimism...!
Other than that, though, I agree. Lots of reason for optimism. The team will likely have a very different look and feel from this past season. But I think it'll be a really good team. Especially if guys like Sulaimon and Murphy are as good as some are predicting.
Will it be a world-beater type of team? Probably not. But I fully expect us to compete for an ACC championship (especially if Leslie and a few UNCers go pro).
Losing Mason and not getting a replacement would make things tougher. But we'd still be a sure-fire tourney team and Top-25ish team without Mason. There's just a lot of really good players and a lot of experience.
We have all the talent in the world. What makes a great team is talent and a special chemistry. When that mix occurs it is sublime to watch it develop.
In any case, I agree that we have tons of talented players next year. It's just a question of how the talent fits together and who steps up.
I can't imagine Seth not starting next year, he is arguably our best returning player, esp if Mason goes pro. But yeah, we have loads of talent, and the future is bright.
1. Marshall is ready to play 15-20 solid minutes at C
2. Hairston is ready to play 20-25 solid minutes at PF
3. Gbinije and Murphy are both ready for significant minutes
4. We get Muhammad or Zeigler
If we go into next year with the team as is it's very possible that we're an even worse rebounding team.
In other words, getting stronger rebounding from the SF position will go a long way toward offsetting the loss of the Plumlees (whose rebounding prowess may already be somewhat offset by Marshall, Kelly, and Hairston). If we don't get stronger rebounding from the 3 spot, it'll be critical that we get a strong inside rebounding presence at the 5 spot.