With the official tipoff of a new era at Duke just days away, The Chronicle's senior beat writers predict all things Blue Devil basketball.
What will Duke’s record be?
Jonathan Levitan: 25-6, 16-4 in the ACC
I was not expecting to be the highest on Duke—this feels not only achievable but fairly likely. The Blue Devils will no doubt have some trouble with the early nonconference slate, but aside from Kansas and Gonzaga at the Phil Knight Legacy final, I have Jon Scheyer and company entering ACC play with all wins.
Conference play is where it gets tough for this young team against a lot of experienced squads. Virginia and North Carolina are the conference favorites in my mind, but the Blue Devils should have enough time together to piece together what they need for a road win against the Cavaliers. North Carolina provides two losses, Virginia Tech and Miami provide the other two, and Duke puts together a clean record worthy of contention in the ACC.
Micah Hurewitz: 23-8, 15-5 in the ACC
This season will definitely be a long journey. By no means is this team going to struggle, but early-season adjustments may leave the Blue Devils with a couple of losses heading into the conference season. A year ago, Duke shocked Gonzaga in Las Vegas—I’m not certain the Blue Devils could pull off a similar win in its four games against power conference opponents in the early portion of the year. By conference season, the team will be a bit more cohesive, especially with everyone healthy, and it will eventually find its groove and harness a bit more veteran experience than it has had in years past to put together a respectable run down the stretch, hence its 15-5 conference record. A deep run in the NCAA tournament is not a guarantee—nor was it last year, so it is time to remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint for this year’s squad.
Sasha Richie: 24-7, 16-4 in the ACC
Duke’s nonconference schedule this season is tough. The Phil Knight Legacy will be a real challenge for the young squad, and Kansas, Ohio State and Iowa are no cakewalk either. Of those six games, I think the Blue Devils will drop three—Kansas, Iowa and their last game in Portland, Ore., whoever that ends up being. This roster, while talented, simply doesn’t have the experience to get through that grind unscathed. However, even if the Blue Devils don’t win, they’ll learn, which bodes well for a strong conference run. North Carolina and Virginia are circled in red on the calendar, but Duke, as it is liable to do, will also lose to a team or two no one suspected. Still, it will finish within the top three spots in the ACC—any lower would be a disaster—and have a top tournament seed within its reach.
Piazza: 22-9, 15-5 in the ACC
It looks like I’m the pessimist of the group, but let me explain myself before the pitchforks come out. It’s going to be a bumpy start to the year, as I’d expect for any first-year head coach with No. 5 Kansas, Ohio State, Iowa and the Phil Knight Legacy on his schedule. The nagging injuries to Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead also don’t help. Neither played in Countdown to Craziness, the not-so-secret Houston scrimmage or Wednesday’s exhibition game, so even if they are ready to go by Monday, there will be some acclimating. I expect Duke to find its groove around the end of January and still contend for an ACC regular-season title, ultimately hitting stride in time for the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Rego: 24-7, 15-5 in the ACC
Last year, I wondered aloud whether the Blue Devils were headed for New Orleans. Now, despite the presence of the top-rated recruiting class and a crafty veteran floor general, I’ll admit that I’m much more gun-shy about Duke’s chances of making a deep March run. Rebuilding chemistry in the midst of a loaded nonconference schedule—Duke will face No. 5 Kansas, Ohio State and Iowa, along with a likely date with No. 2 Gonzaga in Portland—gives me pause. Plus, the improved depth of the ACC will result in a few slip-ups against the likes of Miami, Virginia, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Florida State and Virginia Tech. Duke will finish in the top three of the conference, but there will be growing pains.
Alex: 23-8, 15-5 in the ACC
It’s easy to look at the talent of this Blue Devil roster and expect smooth sailing through the regular season. The ACC hasn’t recouped much talent (outside of the Tar Heels) and Kansas will be without its head coach for the Blue Bloods’ bout. And yet, I see the water being much rougher than many anticipate. With as much roster turnover as Duke has had—plus a new head coach and a couple untimely injuries—it is bound to through some growing pains as the newcomers adjust to the ACC-level of play. I believe the Blue Devils could find themselves picking up a few surprising losses. North Carolina is going to be a brutal two-time matchup, but the rest of the ACC has the experience Duke lacks so badly. An additional three losses in non-conference play—whether that’s against Kansas, Ohio State, or in the Phil Knight Legacy series—could spell a slow start for this loaded Blue Devil team.
Who will be Duke’s MVP?
Jeremy Roach: We’ve been waiting for the Jeremy Roach breakout, and we got a glimpse of it at the end of last season. The Virginia native drained five 3-pointers in Duke’s win against Syracuse in the ACC tournament and posted double-digit scoring performances in three NCAA tournament games. That level of scoring from Roach will be a normality this season and he’s going to package it together with the play-making skills that he has displayed since he came to Durham three years ago. Expect a jump reminiscent of the Tre Jones leap from his freshman to sophomore year. -Piazza
Dariq Whitehead: I guess I’m alone on Whitehead Island. But there’s a reason why the New Jersey native is mocked to go seventh overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. As a prototypical three-level scorer, Whitehead will get his, there’s no doubt about that, but his sheer presence on the court—especially during hot stretches, of which I think there will be many—will open things up for everyone else. Roach will not have to handle as much of the ball-handling duties, Lively will be on the receiving end of countless lobs and Kyle Filipowski and Jacob Grandison (and others) will get wide-open looks from downtown when defenses overhelp on Whitehead. -Rego
Who will be Duke’s most underrated player?
Tyrese Proctor: I am not alone with this pick, but where I differ is in thinking that Grandison will ultimately end up in the starting lineup alongside Whitehead and Roach, relegating Proctor to a sixth-man role. With what he showed at Countdown to Craziness and in Duke’s exhibition win, he looks well-suited to a premier role leading the second unit. -Levitan
Jacob Grandison: Grandison is going to be so much more important to this team than people realize. In the exhibition—in which he led in scoring, I might add—he played with the maturity of someone in his, well, sixth season of college basketball. On a team with only one returning starter, the value of that experience cannot be understated. But arguably even more important is his shooting. Sharpshooter AJ Griffin was indispensable last year, and I think Grandison will prove himself in a similar manner. -Richie
Mark Mitchell: Versatile defender? Check. Fights for loose balls? Check. Ability to run the floor? Check. On a roster with creators in Roach, Whitehead and Proctor, shooters in Filipowski, Grandison and Schutt and paint-occupying bigs in Lively and Ryan Young, Mitchell will get involved in the nitty gritty. Those traits were on full display in Duke’s 82-45 exhibition win against Fayetteville State, as Mitchell put up 15 points, six boards and a pair of steals, with Scheyer adding after the game that Mitchell “can really guard all five positions on the court.” He may have gotten a little lost in the shuffle in a freshman class that included three of the top four prospects, but he definitely isn’t flying under the radar now. -Rego
What will Duke’s go-to lineup be?
JR-JG-DW-KF-DL: In my opinion, Grandison should start at the two, and Proctor should be the leader of a much-used bench unit. The poise and maturity Grandison plays with will be crucial to anchoring a young roster, and among a team that seems to be struggling with 3-point shooting, Grandison is so far the only true threat from deep. Meanwhile, I think at power forward, Mitchell and Filipowski are both solid options. For the time being, until both Whitehead and Lively are healthy—which could be a while from now—both will start and see significant minutes, but I think Filipowski will cement himself in the lineup in that time due to his more versatile offensive skill set. In addition, rolling out Lively, Filipowski and Whitehead would give Duke one of the largest lineups in the conference. Certainly, Mitchell has significant defensive upside and should see the floor plenty often, but by the time the dust settles, that may be more useful to the Blue Devils off the bench. –Richie
JR-JG-DW-MM-DL: I touched on this above, but once Whitehead comes back, I think Duke will have enough creation in the starting lineup that it will look to use Proctor as an initiator off the bench. I hesitate to say that the Australian freshman will be kept off the floor in the clutch down the stretch, but Grandison is incredibly valuable to this team, mainly because of his shooting. Limiting the graduate student’s impact would be a mistake. -Levitan
JR-TP-DW-MM-DL: I think the biggest surprise here is probably Mitchell—and after his performance in the preseason, he has demonstrated he has the motor and athleticism to go after the ball and score down low. Aside from him, slot a health Lively and Whitehead at the center and wing positions, respectively, and then captain Jeremy Roach at the point. Proctor gained some really valuable experience over the summer, and despite being really young, he will fill that two spot—with occasional ball-handling duties next to Roach. In the exhibition Scheyer wasn’t afraid of playing the both of them, and even called some two-man action. We will probably see a bit more of that, but with a fully-healthy roster, this five has got to be the go-to, never mind the benefit of having guys like Grandison, Filipowski and Young coming off the bench. -Hurewitz
Will Duke win the ACC?
No: Duke brings extreme levels of talent to the ACC this year. But it takes more than talent to win the ACC, you need experience. Only Roach has played significant conference minutes on this year’s Blue Devil team. It is going to be very difficult for Duke to navigate its way through regular-season play without hitting a rough patch with this young roster. The beauty of ACC play lies in the games where teams that have no chance on paper give the big dogs a run for their money. It happens to Duke every year when scrappy, veteran teams come into Cameron Indoor Stadium embracing the underdog role and sometimes, pull off the upset. There is significant trust around Scheyer to be able to guide the Blue Devils in this exact situation, but when they are trying to edge out a North Carolina team that brings both talent and experience to the table, there may not be room for skids at all. -Jackson
Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle's men's basketball season preview. Find the rest here.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.