Yes, I understand that we are currently in the middle of football season—and a chaotic one at that—but it is never too early to talk a little basketball.
Countdown to Craziness is set for Saturday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and in my four years at this beautiful institution, I don’t think I have been this excited for one. My freshman year brought the hype of Austin Rivers to campus, and boy did he deliver in one spectacular display of clutch-ness against the Tar Heels that made everyone on campus forget, just for a moment, that his ball-hogging ways would probably skewer the Blue Devils come tournament time.
The following season didn’t feature a huge recruit joining the squad, but instead centered around three seniors ready to make their final stand in Durham. The hype of the 2012-13 season focused on Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry as they led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight before being cut down by a Louisville team that would go on to win the title, even after losing Kevin Ware to a gruesome injury against Duke (Google at your own risk).
And last year, as we all recall, the star power returned in the form of Jabari Parker. Parker teamed up with redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood—who was finally freed from the transfer restrictions of the NCAA—and Andre Dawkins, who returned after a season’s sabbatical to grieve the loss of his sister, Lacey. The Blue Devils were ranked No. 4 in the AP preseason poll, the highest preseason ranking for Duke since it received the nod at No. 1 prior to the 2010-11 season—the year the Blue Devils entered as defending national champions. Last season turned out to have its ups and downs, but ended on a sour note with the second one-and-done for Duke since I came to campus (cue the world’s smallest violin).
But of my four years at Duke, this season offers me the most hope to burn a bench in April, the most hope for campus to look like this come the end of the season. The nation’s top recruiting class brings four new faces to campus, most—if not all—of which I’m sure you have heard about: shooting guard Grayson Allen, small forward Justise Winslow, point guard Tyus Jones and the No. 1 recruit of the Class of 2014, center Jahlil Okafor.
For now, the best I can offer you to exemplify the talents of each of these incoming freshmen are their senior mixtapes, but if you watch them closely enough—and on a loop as I may or may not have throughout the course of the summer—you can see the immense amount of talent each of these players brings to the table and the amount of growth that each of them can experience under Coach K. Couple that with the abilities and leadership coming from captains Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson along with returning pieces Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye and Marshall Plumlee and you have a team that is well deserving of a preseason No. 1 or No. 2 ranking. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.
But with all this excitement leading up to Countdown, I want you all to close your eyes, take a deep breath and realize that this team has a lot of talent, yes, but a lot of young talent. Maybe this team explodes out of the gates and knocks off Michigan State, Wisconsin and Connecticut before even reaching ACC play. Or maybe it takes a little while for this team to gel, and they drop a game or two before hitting the ground hard against Boston College in the ACC opener at Cameron.
Be excited. Be hyped for this season (I know I am). But also be patient. Just like every other season, this team will need the Crazies to step up and provide the energy and atmosphere that makes Cameron what it is. If there is a hiccup or two early on, don’t let that discourage you. This team is going to be a contender. And it all starts Oct. 25 at 8 p.m.
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