Duke: 22-9, 11-7 in the ACC
Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Leading scorer: Grayson Allen (21.5 points per game)
Season recap: For a team coming off a national championship, expectations in Durham were high entering 2015-16. With just four players returning, though, the Blue Devils got off to a rocky start and dropped neutral-site games to Kentucky and Utah. During the rest of nonconference play, Duke only picked up one critical win at home against Indiana, and lost senior captain Amile Jefferson to a foot fracture in early December that wound up claiming the rest of his season.
The Blue Devils started ACC play 4-4—including a stretch of three straight losses to unranked opponents in Clemson, Notre Dame and Syracuse, with the last two coming inside the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium. The losses cost Duke its spot in the top 25 for the first time since 2007, but a pair of one-point wins against Virginia and at North Carolina brought the team right back into the picture.
Although the Blue Devils head into the postseason having won just two of their last five games, they are doing so with limited resources. Not including minutes by sparingly used freshman Chase Jeter, Duke has used a six-man rotation for much of the season. Grayson Allen leads the way with his aggressive style of play, and graduate student Marshall Plumlee—at 8.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game—has improved markedly from last season and provided leadership for a young backcourt that includes veteran Matt Jones as well as freshmen Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard. Throw in ACC Freshman of the Year Brandon Ingram and his 16.7 points per game, and the Blue Devils certainly have made the most of what their depth-strapped roster has to offer.
How they make a run: If Duke is going to win the ACC tournament, it will have to win four games in four days, something that will undoubtedly be a challenge with such a short rotation. During the course of conference play, the Blue Devils played two games in three days on four separate occasions, winning both just once and winning the latter game twice. In Washington, Duke will need to work efficiently as a team and not just rely on Allen and Ingram for offense if the Blue Devils hope to leave the nation's capital as conference tournament champions for the 25th time in program history.
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."