As hard as it is to believe, college basketball tips off in just a few days - and to get you ready for the season, Aaron Torres Online will be giving you 30 previews in the coming 30 days to get you ready for the start of the year, written by the Torres Online team.
In case you missed it, we've already previewed the Memphis Tigers, then hit the Illinois Fighting Illini, Wyoming Cowboys, Xavier Musketeers, Michigan State Spartans, Alabama Crimson Tide, Arizona Wildcats, San Diego State Aztecs, UConn Huskies, Texas Longhorns, Auburn Tigers, UCLA Bruins and the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks. We also covered Dayton, a Top 25 team at A-10 Media Days
Today, it's time to turn our attention to maybe the most fascinating team in the sport - or at least the one with the most fascinating head coach, the Duke Blue Devils. After four-plus decades Coach K is out and the Jon Scheyer era has begun.
And he starts his career with an almost an entirely new roster to boot - here's what you need to know about this year's Blue Devils.
Duke Blue Devils
How it Went Down in 2021-2022
So, we're not sure if you heard, but there was a little bit of a retirement tour at Duke a season ago.
That's right, in June of 2021 Mike Krzyzewski, who took over the Duke head coaching job prior to the 1980-81 season announced that the 2021-2022 season would be his final one. With it came what we knew would be the prevailing storyline of the college hoops season: A never-ending conversation centered on a person that college basketball fans either love or despise.
Regardless, once the games began the focus largely shifted away from the head coach and to a loaded squad, which once again boasted the most talent in college basketball. It featured another top ranked recruiting class, including five-star recruits Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels. They were brought in to play alongside a group of equally talented vets, highlighted by Wendell Moore, Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach. Theo John joined the team from Marquette as a grad transfer.
That talent was on full display on opening night, when a pair of those freshmen - Keels and Banchero - both went for 20+ points and a win over Kentucky in the Champion's Classic. From there, things didn't really slow down, as a few weeks later, in a highly publicized Black Friday night game in Vegas against Gonzaga, the Blue Devils took down Mark Few's club to improve to 7-0 and, at the time, establish itself as probably the best team in college basketball at that point. Banchero also officially established himself as a star, with a 20-point first half performance on a national stage.
Just a few days later Duke lost its first game of the season at Ohio State, but to their credit, they bounced back and spent of December and January steamrolling their competition. There were losses here and there (Florida State on the road, Miami at home) but as the season went on it became increasingly clear that Duke was head-and-shoulders the best team in the ACC. That was on full display in one of their best efforts of the year in a dominant 87-67 victory over North Carolina, in the first matchup of the two teams on February 5th. With it, Duke improved to 19-3 and seemed capable of beating anyone, all while North Carolina fell to 16-7 on the season.
A few weeks later the teams met for the second time, and admittedly, not much was expected to change. Duke 8-1 between the first and second Carolina games, and while the Tar Heels were improved, no one expected much different as the two teams met for the second time in Durham.
If anything, that game would be a coronation for Duke, hosting their cross-state rivals in the final home game of Coach K's career. All sorts of Duke basketball alums were in the building along with notable fans (shout out Ken Jeong!) and ESPN had days of coverage in the lead-up to the event.
The Tar Heels however made it their own notable day, one where they arrived on the national scene and proved to many that they had the goods to make a deep tournament run. A game that Duke led at halftime went the other way quickly, as the Tar Heels jumped on the Blue Devils after the half and never let up. North Carolina won 94-81, leaving some stunned fans at Cameron Indoor in tears, and also leading to one of the most unintentionally hysterical speeches ever given by Coach K.
Still, despite the disappointment, it didn't slow Duke down, who made the ACC title game (losing to Virginia Tech) and stayed hot in the NCAA Tournament, beating Cal State-Fullerton, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas, to make the school's 13th Final Four under Coach K.
By the time they arrived in New Orleans, many deemed Duke the favorites and it seemed almost pre-ordained, with most college hoops fans all thinking the same thing "Of course Coach K is going to win a title in his final year. Of course they will."
But it didn't happen, thanks to a familiar foe: Those North Carolina Tar Heeels.
For the second time in three weeks, the Tar Heels absolutely stunned the Blue Devils, beat Duke in one of the great NCAA Tournament games of all-time.
With it, Coach K slowly walked off the floor and into retirement.
And a day later, the Jon Scheyer era began.
What to Expect in 2022-2023
Key Returnees: Jeremy Roach
Key Losses: Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, Theo John
Key Transfers: Jacob Grandison (Illinois), Ryan Young (Northwestern), Kale Catchings (Harvard)
Key Recruits: Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively II, Kyle Filipowski, Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor, Jaylen Blakes
National Title Odds via Betfred Sportsbook: +800
Say this for the retirement tour: While many (myself included) made fun of it at times, Coach K's decision to put off retirement by one season really did put the program in the best position to continue its success long-term.
It allowed Coach K to stick around campus in the summer of 2021 and work with his guys (which clearly worked out well last year), all while Scheyer coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer could go out on the road and focus on recruiting.
He clearly didn't waste any time, bringing in a class that featured three of the top five players nationally, in wing Dariq Whitehead, forward Kyle Filipowski and center Dereck Lively II. It also includes Top 15 prospect and McDonald's All-American Mark Mitchell. Whitehead unfortunately suffered a preseason injury, but it still shouldn't stop him from being an instant impact guy once he returns.
But in terms of the guys who will be on the court opening night, Lively and Filipowski are definitely the names to know. Lively is a crazy athletic seven-footer, who teamed with future lottery pick Jalen Duren in AAU ball, but emerged as the better long-term prospect. He is a freak athlete and will immediately be one of the best shot blockers and rim protectors in college basketball heading into the 2022-2023 season. Filipowski is a stretch four with three-point range that can play a small ball five when needed, and when Whitehead returns, he is a freak athlete with Top 5 NBA potential.
Still, everything for Duke will center around the one returning player on this year's roster: Guard Jeremy Roach. Roach has had a star-crossed career dealing with injuries in high school that slowed him as a freshman two seasons ago, but really emerged late during the Blue Devils NCAA Tournament run last March. He was at his best in the Big Dance, including a 15-point, five assist effort against Texas Tech in the Sweet 16.
Finally, to Scheyer's credit, some of his best work in roster construction was actually done in June after the NBA Draft deadline. Shortly after former guard Trevor Keels - who nearly returned to school - announced he'd stay in the NBA Draft, Scheyer immediately went on the offensive. He added guard Tyrese Proctor, a five-star guard in the class of 2023, who elected to reclassify and could contribute immediately. Proctor is highly-skilled and could be a surprise breakout star for this team.
More importantly, Duke added guard Jacob Grandison out of the transfer portal from Illinois. Grandison is the exact player that Duke lacked, a veteran college player who might not have a ton of NBA upside, but who has contributed to big winners in college basketball. He averaged just under 10 points on 41 percent three-point shooting last season.
Two more college veterans will round out the rotation, big man Ryan Young who spent three years at Northwestern and will add an extra big body down low and Kale Catchings, a wing who averaged nine points at Harvard a season ago.
Unfortunately, this season won't begin like most others with the Champions Classic - instead, Jon Scheyer will get a few warm-up games before the sport's signature opening week event. Still, after home matchups with Jacksonville and USC-Upstate, the Blue Devils will head to the Champion's Classic.
There, they will face the reigning national champion Kansas Jayhawks, coached by Hall of Famer Bill Self. What a way to get things started for Scheyer, huh?
It doesn't really get any easier from there, as just a few days the team flies out to Portland, Oregon for the best Thanksgiving week tournament on this year's slate: The PK85. Duke will open with Oregon State, before getting either Xavier or Florida in the second round. Should they advance to the title game, they could get Gonzaga after that.
Following the PK it doesn't slow down, with an ACC-Big Ten matchup with Ohio State and in early December they head to Madison Square Garden to play in the Jimmy V Classic against Iowa. The Hawkeyes should again be a tournament team with Kris Murray stepping in to replace brother Keegan Murray (a lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings) as the team's marquee star.
Things finally slow a bit before ACC play ramps up right before Christmas. It won't be easy with a road game at Wake Forest and a matchup with Florida State on New Year's Eve Day. In total, the Blue Devils play four of six on the road from December 20th to January 14th in ACC play.
And once ACC play gets in full swing, it really doesn't get much easier. There are two matchups with Miami - a team that made the Elite Eight last year and beat Duke at Cameron - road trips to Virginia and Syracuse and of course two matchups with the preseason No. 1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
The only saving grace for the Blue Devils is that there are just one matchup each with Notre Dame, Florida State and Virginia, which all should be in the NCAA Tournament hunt this season.
What to Expect in 2022-2023
We all know that Jon Scheyer can accumulate talent. He's proven that in both the 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes. The former was ranked No. 1 in the country, and the latter could finish No. 1 and will likely finish no worse than No. 2 in 2023.
But can Jon Scheyer coach: Well, that's a question we should get an answer to pretty quickly, with games against Kansas, Iowa, Ohio State, either Florida or Xavier and potentially Gonzaga all in the first six weeks of the season.
The bottom line is this team is near impossible to project.
As much everyone disliked Coach K, the man didn't win over 1,000 career games by accident. To expect a guy who has never coached a game in college basketball to immediately step in and pick up where he left off just doesn't seem realistic. Heck, Hubert Davis inherited a team full of players with college experience last year, and really took him until about mid-February to put it all together.
Still, the talent is also there for Duke to beat anyone on their schedule and anyone, period.
Because of it, they have the biggest gap between "ceiling" and "floor" in college hoops.
If all goes right, this team absolutely has the pieces to be a No. 1 seed and again play in the Final Four.
But would it surprise anyone if, in Year 1 of the Scheyer era, the Blue Devils went like 22-10, got a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lost in the first round? Neither feels shocking.
So which will it be?
Well, man it will be darn fun to watch and find out.
Catch up on the other teams in our countdown