Duke Blue Devils
Record: 23-10 (11-7 ACC)
Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (36th season)
Season Recap: For a team coming off a national championship, expectations in Durham were high entering the 2015-16 season. 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 ranked foes Virginia and at North Carolina brought the team right back into the national 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. Duke has used a six-man rotation for much of the season, with sparingly-used freshman Chase Jeter getting some time as well. Sophomore 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, providing 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: Last year on its way to the fifth national championship in program history, Duke got big-time contributions postseason from Allen, who played just 8.6 minutes per game and scored just more than four points per contest in ACC play as a freshman. This year, freshman forward Chase Jeter makes his mark and gives the Blue Devils the depth on both ends of the floor that they lack inside without Jefferson.
How they falter: Duke survives yet another opening-round upset from a double-digit seed, but with just a seven-man rotation, cannot outlast a deeper, more talented major conference opponent and falls in either the round of 32 or the Sweet 16.
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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."