ACC Basketball: 2015-2016 Duke Blue Devils Season Preview

Duke Blue Devils


35-4 (15-3 ACC) (NCAA Champs) in 2014-2015


Key Returning Players

  • F Amile Jefferson
  • G Grayson Allen


  • C Jahlil Okafor (entered NBA draft, picked 3rd by Philadephia 76ers)
  • F Justise Winslow (entered NBA draft, picked 10th by the Miami Heat)
  • G Tyus Jones (entered NBA draft, picked 24th by the Cleveland Cavaliers)
  • G Quinn Cook (graduated)


  • SF Brandon Ingram, 5-star recruit (#3 in ESPN100 for 2015 Class)
  • C Chase Jeter, 5-star recruit (#11 in ESPN100 for 2015 Class)
  • PG Derryck Thornton, 5-star recruit (#17 in ESPN100 for 2015 Class)
  • SG Luke Kennard, 4-star recruit (#24 in ESPN100 for 2015 Class)
  • C Antonio Vrankovic, 3-star recruit



After a 35-win season for Duke last year and a victory over Wisconsin in the National Championship game, the fifth under Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils will look much, much different heading into the 2015 campaign. The core of the title-winning squad from last season has now moved on to the NBA, with only forward Amile Jefferson and guard Grayson Allen remaining as players who garnered meaningful playing time last season. In a tough ACC year-in and year-out, the Blue Devils are going to have to acclimate many new faces in a hurry from the nation’s top recruiting class. The growth of the young players will go a long way in determining just how far this team can go, as the freshmen will be prominent in the rotation once again in 2015.

The incoming freshman class for the Blue Devils features five recruits in total, with four of the five ranked in the top 25 overall players in the country per ESPN. Wing Brandon Ingram is the crown jewel of the star-studded class, as he will combine a mix of size and explosiveness to give the Blue Devils a viable threat on both ends of the court out on the perimeter. Center Chase Jeter is the 11th-ranked player in the nation, and will have big shoes to fill as he is called upon to replace Jahlil Okafor, who is on to the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The number 17 recruit in the country, Derryck Thornton, will shoulder a heavy load at the point guard position, replacing Tyus Jones with the ball-handling duties this season. I’d expect Coach K to utilize Thornton in a similar way that he did with Jones last year, especially early on in the season, to get him acclimated before letting him loose later in the season with the play-calling responsibilities. Shooting guard Luke Kennard will play a significant role this season for the Blue Devils as well, as he will fill in behind Grayson Allen. With that being said, he should contribute in a big way to the overall offensive production of the offense, so I’d expect Kennard to still get a fair share of minutes this season.

Three-star center Antonio Vrankovic rounds out the nation’s top class, as he should fill in nicely as a reserve behind Chase Jeter. His bench minutes will be needed, so he is another guy who will need to produce in order for Duke to have the depth that they need to compete for another National Championship.


Schedule and Prediction


I know that the one game that everyone is looking forward to in the non-conference schedule is the match-up between the Blue Devils and second-ranked Kentucky on November 17th. The battle of two of the youngest teams in college basketball should be an intriguing one, but with the game being so early in the season for both teams, I would expect an ugly, but glorified high school game in which the names of the new faces, as well as the prominence of the schools will drive viewership on television. Both teams will bring it come March, but this could be a feeling-out process for both clubs this early in the year. The Blue Devils are participating in the 2K Classic, which has the potential to pit them against either Georgetown or Wisconsin on November 22nd. Either team would provide for another intriguing non-conference match-up for Duke, as Coach K will learn a great deal about his young team in the first week and a half of the new season.

In conference, the schedule is quite manageable for the Blue Devils. I spoke to how easy the Virginia Cavaliers schedule was in their preview, but Duke’s is just light, if not lighter than UVa’s slate. The Blue Devils play #19 Notre Dame at home early on in the ACC schedule, face UNC twice (one at home, one on the road), and have a road game against #6 Virginia. Other than those four games, the Blue Devils have a schedule that should put them in great position to earn a number one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament with an opportunity to defend their National Championship. The ceiling for this team is going back-to-back, but the development of the freshmen will go a long way towards determining the ultimate outcome for this year’s Duke team. I’d expect, at worst, an Elite 8 appearance for these Blue Devils. They’re too talented to not get to that point, in what will be another very good ball club for Coach K in Durham.


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