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The Chronicle's Duke men's basketball 2020-21 season preview

It's been 258 days since Duke men's basketball last took the floor, a big rivalry win against North Carolina March 7. After postseason play was cancelled in 2020, college basketball has finally returned, though the landscape of the sport should be very different for the Blue Devils and the rest of the nation. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is head coach Mike Krzyzewski leading a talented squad toward the dream of a national championship at the end of the season, this being Coach K's 41st in Durham.

While fans are thrilled for the return of Duke basketball on the court, the program has been taking initiative off of it. From the addition of 'EQUALITY' on the team uniforms to a Black Lives Matter protest in August, people like director of operations Nolan Smith and freshman forward Henry Coleman III are leaving a lasting impact. With young Black athletes making a statement in today's world, we also take a look back at the first high-profile Black player in Duke's history, Gene Banks, and how the former top recruit changed the course of the program in the late 1970s.

Unique times call for a unique schedule as Krzyzewski and company built an interesting nonconference slate combined with the usual ACC foes. The Blue Devils will welcome Champions Classic opponent Michigan State and ACC/Big Ten Challenge adversary Illinois to Cameron Indoor Stadium, replacing the usual rowdy scenes of these fierce matchups with the now-quiet confines of Duke's home turf. Krzyzewski also took the initiative of adding a multi-team event in early December to be played in Durham in honor of Dr. Onye Akwari, the first African American surgeon on Duke's faculty.

For the first time in two years, the Duke offense will be led by someone other than Tre Jones. However, Blue Devil fans shouldn't fear as Jordan Goldwire is more than capable of taking over in perhaps the final year of his collegiate story. He'll be joined by Wendell Moore Jr. and Matthew Hurt, a rare duo of five-star returnees, both of whom return for sophomore seasons with more refined games and bodies.

In normal times, Cameron Indoor Stadium is packed with 9,314 screaming fans to provide a serious home-court advantage for Duke. Things will be a lot different with fans not allowed to attend home games to begin the season, however, and the players will have to find a way to create energy while students grapple campus life without the Cameron Crazies.

The Blue Devils don't seem to have a clear-cut top big man as the season approaches, perhaps a signal that Krzyzewski should utilize a small ball lineup with Hurt at the center position. However, an athletic paint presence in Duke's starting lineup could be the key this year as freshman Mark Williams arrives on campus.

Finally, Duke's 2020 recruiting class arrives without a top-10 recruit for the first time since 2012, but that doesn't mean they don't have a future star leading the way. Freshman Jalen Johnson has taken an intriguing road to Durham, but he's ready to prove the doubters wrong by powering the Blue Devils to wins with dynamic play.

Looking for even more detailed analysis on Duke's squad? Check out our player previews, which contain everything worth knowing about each Blue Devil.

If you aren't already, follow us on Twitter @dukebasketball and visit our website throughout the season for all the best coverage of the Blue Devils this winter. Also, check out our season predictions, as our senior beat reporters give you their thoughts on the upcoming campaign.


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