With Duke's season right around the corner, five of The Chronicle's beat writers predict all things Blue Devil basketball.
What do you think Duke’s record will be?
Em Adler: 20-9 (11-7, 5th in the ACC)
The ACC is in flux. N.C. State, Louisville, Georgia Tech and Florida State lost the majority of their best players from last season, Miami is young and lost its point guard and Syracuse isn’t what it used to be. So I’m once again higher on Duke than the consensus. That didn’t work out too well for me last year, but this is a better bunch of Blue Devils than we saw last year. The trios of freshmen and transfers brought in should be able to play to head coach Kara Lawson and company’s strengths in X’s-&-O’s, alleviating last year’s repeated issues with Duke missing open shots and lacking two-way players. It’s going to be a tight mid-tier in this conference, but years-long chemistry is no longer an advantage the Blue Devils’ closest ACC competitors can boast.
Ana Young: 17-12 (9-9, 8th in the ACC)
While I would love to stay optimistic for a deep conference run, looking back at last year makes it challenging to have faith that this program will be an ACC contender this season. Granted, head coach Kara Lawson’s squad returns last year’s offensive leaders in Celeste Taylor and Shayeann Day-Wilson. It also has Elizabeth Balogun returning—she will be crucial in blocking and rebounding, especially with Onome Akinbode-James and Jade Williams now graduated. And though with new faces coming to the program, excitement should be the keyword. But last year’s squad had a boatload of talent and still struggled to stay afloat against its competitors. It’s better to be safe than to be sorry, and until we see what this novice lineup looks like in formation, I don’t have the highest expectations that the Blue Devils will get away with the key wins they need, especially considering that most of their competitors—most notably N.C. State and North Carolina—are returning virtually the same lineups. It looks like an uphill battle against veteran teams is on the horizon for Duke.
Leah Boyd: 19-10 (10-8, 7th in the ACC)
I’m not concerned about Duke’s nonconference performance, though I am predicting a loss against Florida Gulf Coast—a win against then-No. 16 Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season surely suggests potential for a nonconference upset for Duke. In terms of ACC play, my outlook may be a bit optimistic, as I see the potential of Duke’s ceiling, but we can’t ignore Duke’s inconsistency last season—see their February loss to Virginia, who was 3-21 and 0-14 in the ACC at the time. My predictions—including late-season wins over North Carolina and N.C. State—ghosts over these flaws and assumes that the addition of better shooters to take some pressure off of Taylor and Day-Wilson will help build a more well-rounded and consistent unit this season.
Mackenzie Sheehy: 17-12 (9-9, 6th in the ACC)
The Blue Devils can best be described as a disappointment last season, as they did not qualify for the NCAA tournament and demonstrated less than stellar ACC play. However, Duke has the potential for redemption if it can capitalize on its perfect storm of experience and fresh talent. The lethal guard duo of Day-Wilson and Taylor will put up plenty of points to drive the Blue Devil offense. Bolstered by Oregon State transfers Taya Corosdale and Kennedy Brown and freshman starpower in Shay Bollin and Ashlon Jackson, the team could be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. Especially with Louisville and N.C. State losing key players, it is unlikely that any one team will dominate conference play, putting Duke in a great position to become a preeminent power. And yet, Duke has made its name with inconsistency. If it continues to drop games like Florida State and Virginia, who were 17-14 and 5-22 respectively, they will have a hard time putting themselves in a favorable position for the postseason.
Ranjan Jindal: 19-10 (11-7, 6th in the ACC)
Although Duke had a disappointing finish to ACC play last year, this is a team with returning experience and quality newcomers that I think will be competitive in the league. In addition, Kara Lawson’s bunch has depth and elite guard play which will serve them well in conference play. With the loss of both Williams and Akinbode-James, Duke will have to find quality replacements at the forward and center position, but Corosdale and Brown, along with Bollin, could provide this lift. There will be a lot of turnover in the ACC coming into the season and I doubt we will see a team that goes 17-1 in the conference as N.C. State did last year. The top two teams from a season ago, N.C. State and Louisville, both lost key pieces, and there are four or five teams that could win this conference in my opinion. The ACC is very deep and Duke has a tough conference slate, drawing N.C. State and Virginia Tech twice. However, even if the Blue Devils don’t win 13 or 14 conference games, they can still finish toward the top of the league.
Who will be the team MVP?
Young: Celeste Taylor
Last year, the Blue Devils were indisputably led by Taylor and Day-Wilson. And while Day-Wilson was one of the most fun players to watch compete at Cameron Indoor Stadium last year, my gut tells me that Taylor takes the cake here for MVP. Though the senior guard is a consistent shooter and that will certainly be a necessity for Duke to remain competitive in contests such as Miami, North Carolina and Notre Dame, we cannot write off the importance of Taylor’s defensive leadership for this team. Last season, in Duke’s losses, more times than not it saw its opponents go on unanswered scoring runs that led to insurmountable deficits. It was in games like that in which Taylor handled the backcourt for Duke, whether by stealing or grabbing the rebound off an opponent’s shot—both stats that the Valley Stream, N.Y., native led the Blue Devils in. As she returns for her second season with the squad, Taylor is the key the Blue Devils need in order to have a chance at defeating the opponents that beat them last year.
Boyd: Taya Corosdale
In looking for team MVP, I’m not looking for the highest scorer, the most minutes per game, or the most awards; I’m looking for the most consistent teammate, the player who you could ask to make herself available wherever she’s needed, and who will make you feel like you can exhale and feel confident when she’s on the court. That is Corosdale. She provided strong defensive pressure at the top of the key in Duke’s exhibition game, found Brown in the paint to run the first-quarter offense, hit a three and notched two early steals for the Blue Devils. She can be anywhere and everywhere, and she will do so with composure, the graduate transfer adding veteran leadership that is much needed in a squad with several new faces. Lawson talked after open practice in October about how a good teammate is a consistent teammate, and Corosdale will be relied on throughout the season to keep Duke steady when it struggles.
Jindal: Shayeann Day-Wilson
The beauty about Duke coming into this year is the ability for a number of players to have a great game on any given day, and I think the balance of this team will be a key strength going forward. That said, I had to choose Day-Wilson following her unbelievable freshman campaign. Despite being only 5-foot-6, Day-Wilson is a phenomenal point guard who has a knack for scoring. She can get to the line at will, knocking down 81 free-throws last year. In addition, her vision is elite, as she dished out 107 assists. As only a sophomore, Day-Wilson still has room to grow, but if her freshman year was any indication, the moment is not too big for her. With the abundance of talent this year for the Blue Devils, the leading scorer is up in the air, but Day-Wilson will be a key factor as the prime facilitator of the team.
Who is Duke’s most underrated player?
Adler: Jordyn Oliver
Duke had plenty of problems last year, but one of the biggest was the lack of playmaking when Day-Wilson hit the bench. With Vanessa de Jesus not able to match her impressive (though abridged) freshman campaign, Day-Wilson had to play at least 30 minutes in all but four ACC games so that the Blue Devils could keep her lead play and shot-making on the court. But returning from injury now is Oliver, who flashed eye-popping passes at Baylor and top-tier defense on the perimeter. If she and Day-Wilson can develop a rapport, it can unlock Day-Wilson’s off-ball shooting as well.
Boyd: Vanessa de Jesus
Don’t let de Jesus losing her starting spot fool you. She’ll play behind Day-Wilson throughout the season, but just look at what de Jesus contributed as a playmaker when she saw the floor last season: 14 steals—one being a game-winner against Clemson—and a 1.43 assist-to-turnover ratio, per Her Hoops Stats. She’s a gritty player, Lawson said after the team’s October open practice, so on top of playmaking for strong frontcourt shooters like Corosdale, she will rejuvenate Duke’s defense by limiting opponents’ options at the top of the key. I know the shooting didn’t come together last season, but Duke doesn’t need her as a shooter right now—Taylor has had recent emergence from the 3-point line and Balogun can also cover for that weakness. I’m looking for de Jesus to have another season of high-impact, though limited, minutes.
Sheehy: Ashlon Jackson
Jackson is greatness in the making. Following in the footsteps of Day-Wilson, Jackson comes in as the top-ranked Duke recruit and No. 16 in the class of 2022. The 6-foot guard can shoot from anywhere on the court with precision, averaging 19.4 points, 5.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game as a senior. She is known for her jumper, but she can drive to the basket with ease while also doling out plenty of assists to teammates. The China, Texas native’s good court vision extends to the defensive end, where her performance is no less impressive; she averaged 4.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in her final high school campaign. To top it all off, she pushes the pace of the game while boosting energy levels on the court. The 2022 All-American could very well be the next Duke star.
Jindal: Reigan Richardson
Lawson has brought in a number of talented transfers and freshmen who will have an immediate impact on the team. One of these is Reigan Richardson, a sophomore guard who is a transfer from Georgia. Her stats are misleading, because although she averaged 5.8 points last year, she finished the season with much higher production, scoring in double figures in each of her last five SEC contests. Richardson became a key factor on a very good Bulldogs team, and her experience in the SEC and NCAA tournaments will be valuable for Duke. Richardson is a big guard at 5-foot-11, and has the ability to score at all three levels of the court. She plays with effort on both ends, and can be utilized in smaller lineups for Lawson. She has the potential to be a great lift off the bench, and could even work her way into the starting lineup.
What will Duke’s best win be?
UConn is not in a good place right now. Paige Bueckers, the consensus 2020-21 Player of the Year, is out for the season with a torn ACL; Ice Brady, the No. 5 recruit in this year’s freshman class, is out for the season with a dislocated patella; Dorka Juhász, the Huskies’ starting center, is still not 100% after fracturing her left wrist in last year’s Final Four; Aubrey Griffin, who could be their starting three, has chronic back issues; Caroline Ducharme, who could also start at the three, has only been playing for a few months after offseason hip surgery. The point being: if you believe this is a good Duke team, then this is a good matchup for the Blue Devils—one that could afford them their first win against UConn in program history.
Young: Virginia Tech
I think that this team has talent—a lot of it. With one of the most stacked rosters Duke has had in recent years, I think that there is a lot of opportunity this season, and some of those opportunities will likely be beating out the teams that defeated them last year. But I also am reluctant to have an exceedingly optimistic outlook on what teams Duke can beat this year. I think we need to be realistic here, and while some may say that Virginia Tech is a lofty expectation, if the Blue Devils are going to have one stunning win this year, I believe it’s going to be this one. Last season, Duke took on the Hokies twice, first losing 77-55 before falling 65-54 in the second game despite winning the first half 32-25. Though Duke eventually lost that lead, the performance proved that this roster can take on the Hokies and potentially end up victorious.
Boyd: N.C. State
Hear me out: The Wolfpack lost four of their five starters from last season, and while they boast the addition of Saniya Rivers, a highly touted transfer from South Carolina, and the return of point guard Diamond Johnson, I’m not seeing anything else too significant in the 2022-23 roster that can make up for the talent lost by the departures. The Blue Devils have been inching closer to a win against the Wolfpack, losing by 24 in their first meeting last season but leading at the half in their second contest in February. Honestly, I’m here for the storyline of the Blue Devils finally finding themselves ahead and cruising to a long-awaited victory against a team that made the Final Four last season.
Jindal: North Carolina
This feels like the perfect story for the team to wrap up the season, but I do remember what happened at the end of last season against the Tar Heels, when Duke fell 74-46. I am high on North Carolina coming into this year, as it retains virtually everyone from its talented team a season ago. Remarkably, the Tar Heels had the same starting lineup for every game last year, and four out of five starters—their top four scorers—are all back. Therefore, their team chemistry is elite, and I think they can work their way into the top three of the conference. As a season-ending rivalry game, this will be filled with emotion and could have potential ramifications for ACC tournament seeding. With that being said, I see Duke and North Carolina as similar teams in terms of their balance, elite guard play and experience. For the Blue Devils to emerge victorious, Brown and Corosdale will have to have big games, as Duke will have the size advantage. This would be an incredible win for Lawson’s group and a momentum boost for the postseason.
What will be Duke’s go-to lineup?
Adler: Day-Wilson, Taylor, Jackson, Balogun, Corosdale
I don’t know if this is going to be Duke’s go-to lineup, but I do think it needs to be. If Corosdale can hold up even a bit against opposing centers, then this is a lineup that can be the Blue Devils’ “death lineup.” It is five players who can hit open shots and are above-average passers for their positions, four who can drive and a lot of switchable defenders. I think Duke needs Jackson to have a big year, and she truly can be the piece that unlocks its versatility.
Young: Day-Wilson, Taylor, Jackson, Balogun, Brown
Three returners are virtual locks for remaining on the starting lineup this year, which means that two spots remain open for returning players and new additions. But with the majority of Duke’s rotation from last year gone, I’m positive that Lawson will turn to her new additions to fill the remaining two spots. Jackson is one of the best freshmen in the country, especially from the 3-point line; if Duke wants to wreak havoc on any of the tough competition it faces, quality minutes for Jackson will be vital. With Williams, last season’s starting center, graduating, Lawson needs a defensive focal point to replace her on the court; the 6-foot-6 Brown will likely be the fifth spot-holder, as her presence will be important on the rebounding and blocking front.
Sheehy: Day-Wilson, Taylor, Balogun, Corosdale, Brown
In Day-Wilson, Taylor and Balogun, the Blue Devils have a lethal guard trio with plenty of experience and starpower. Day-Wilson and Taylor in particular are a dominant backcourt duo with their sharpshooting, court vision and ball-handling skills coupled with good defensive ability. Balogun has the potential to be a breakout star this year as a prolific 3-point shooter who has played for three different ACC teams, making her wisdom invaluable. Transfer talent will likely make up the rest of Duke’s starting five. With Brown and Corosdale both coming from Oregon State, their previous teamwork will come in handy when developing the Blue Devil chemistry. However, there is a lot of talent on the Duke roster that could easily make an appearance in the starting lineup. Jackson might have a breakout season, following in Day-Wilson’s footsteps, while Richardson could see significant minutes. One thing is for certain: If the Blue Devils can utilize their deep bench to supplement these starters, they could see some stellar success.
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Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.
Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.