As Duke men's basketball gets ready to tipoff the 2023-24 year, The Chronicle's senior beat writers predict this season of Blue Devil basketball:
What will Duke’s record be?
Andrew Long: 26-5, 16-4 in the ACC
Preseason polling has been kind to Duke, and I will follow in my kindness. But I don’t think it’s without reason. Duke’s top-four scorers back for another round in Durham and the No. 2 recruiting class in the country makes for a dangerous combo leading into the season, with perhaps the country’s deepest backcourt and a serious contender for ACC Player of the Year in Kyle Filipowski. I’m a firm believer in head coach Jon Scheyer’s defense-first system and actually think the team will get better playing a small-ball lineup as it likely will, with an emphasis on Tyrese Proctor’s shooting talent, Jeremy Roach’s ability to drive to the rim and Jared McCain’s multifaceted game playing the perfect foil to the post play of Filipowski and Mark Mitchell. For what it’s worth, the early signs at Duke’s exhibition game against UNC Pembroke were encouraging in this way, with each of these five players hitting double-digit points in roughly a half of basketball and the guards in particular shining. The real strength of the Blue Devils this year as opposed to last is in their depth, though, with at least one reliable backup in each position, and often a four- or five-star one. I think Duke eases into the season against Dartmouth and is tested against Arizona, but escapes its nonconference slate with a single loss before dropping four games in the ACC to win outright. The conference isn’t as loaded as it has been in years past, and with this level of talent and the ability to rotate, it’s hard for me to see anything but success in Durham — at least in the regular season.
Rachael Kaplan: 26-5, 16-4 in the ACC
No, it’s not deja vu. Duke really does just have the potential to be that good this year. I’m typically the resident pessimist, but with this roster, there isn’t a ton to be pessimistic about. The Blue Devils have Roach at the helm once again, the only player on this year’s squad to start a game for former head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Roach has seen it all, from the highest highs to the lowest lows. Filipowski and Proctor, Duke’s two preseason All-ACC selections, chose to postpone their professional futures for one more go. Mitchell provides a defensive ferocity, a leading factor in the Blue Devils’ prowess on the other end of the court. The freshmen are poised for strong collegiate debuts, with McCain showing out with 15 points in the exhibition demolition of UNC Pembroke.
Three nonconference matchups in particular are circled on my calendar. Arizona, Michigan State and Arkansas. I think Duke drops one of the three. The ACC, even if it isn’t quite up to its usual standards, is always a gauntlet, and North Carolina is sure to be back with a vengeance after its disappointing season and sweep at the hands of the Blue Devils. Overall, Duke can take on anybody.
Micah Hurewitz: 25-6, 16-4 in the ACC
We are all free thinkers here in The Chronicle’s sports department. I promise. Even when it may not look like it. First off, Duke’s non-conference schedule is really tough. In spite of the critics of Scheyer and the Blue Devils’ scheduling, a road match with Arkansas and neutral-site duels with both Michigan State and Baylor have danger written all over them. It's not that Duke won’t be able to handle the pressure, but each team will throw something new at the Blue Devils, and probability tells me that something is bound to stick. Take a 9-2 record out of conference into the ACC slate and the Blue Devils should feel great heading into 2024. The ACC is a total crapshoot in my opinion, in the best of ways, since we really have no idea what teams like Miami and Virginia are going to look like aside from their few big-name returners like Nijel Pack, Norchad Omier and Reece Beekman. Other teams up and down the standings could throw a wrench in Duke’s quest for another perfect home season and conference tournament championship, and some number of these conference tests — against just about anybody — may just put a damper on those hopes. I understand my 16-win estimate is still on the higher-end, as just two teams have put together a 16-win conference season since the schedule expanded to 20 games in 2019 (2019-20 Florida State and 2021-22 Duke), but it’s where I’ll put the preseason No. 2 team in the nation and national title favorites.
Jonathan Levitan: 25-6, 15-5 in the ACC
While I am slightly lower than my fellow beats on Duke’s in-conference outlook, the continuity on Scheyer’s second-year roster has the Blue Devils set up to prance through non-conference play and pick up some true quality wins before other teams even get their feet off the ground. In four top-25 matchups outside the ACC, I think Duke starts strong with wins against No. 4 Michigan State and No. 12 Arizona before dropping one of two away from Cameron Indoor Stadium against No. 14 Arkansas or No. 20 Baylor.
Even in a weak ACC, though, Duke will hit some bumps in the road and take time adjusting to life without Dereck Lively II. It may not be the domination their preseason ranking would suggest, but the Blue Devils will figure it out in time to outpace a slightly weak cast of contenders for the regular-season crown and set themselves up for a postseason run.
Who will be Duke’s MVP?
The center was a force last year, and now with surgically repaired hips, he’s only going to get better. The preseason AP All-American title should speak for itself — Filipowski is one of the best players currently in the college game. He is coming off a 15.1-point, 8.9-rebound season filled with 16 double-doubles. Imagine what he can do at full strength.
Looking at the roster as a whole, the backcourt is deep. The two talented returners, Roach and Proctor, are joined by Foster and McCain. Duke can run an all-star three-guard rotation. With the departure of Dereck Lively II, there’s a hole in the paint. Filipowski has to be the one to fill it. -Kaplan
I think Filipowski is as good as everyone says he is, and with healthy hips will take a step up in year two. But I think Proctor has serious — and I mean serious — potential for ACC Player of the Year in his place. Proctor is an incredible shooter and has a very important year of development in the college game under his belt, and with more responsibilities on the ball and Scheyer’s full trust as the starting point guard, I only see upside for the sophomore from Sydney. If he can continue to find his spots from deep and create his own shots — two of his greatest strengths — as he did at the tail end of 2022-23, watch out. -Long
Who will be Duke’s most underrated player?
He was probably Duke’s most underrated player last year, and amid all the Filipowski, Proctor and Roach hype this time around, I feel like he still is. The sophomore is this team’s defensive linchpin and is sneakily threatening from his spot at the left corner, and will start every game this season (as he did last season), barring injury. Mitchell is the quintessential “glue guy” and rarely has a bad game, and in a team with as much depth and opportunity for substitution as this team does, that’s perhaps the most valuable skill of all. -Long
Anyone who saw him play in the second half against UNC Pembroke knows exactly what I’m talking about. The freshman will likely be coming off the bench for the entirety of the season, but he provides a size boost to the small-ball lineup. His 10-point second-half performance was an emphatic entrance onto the college basketball scene. While some of his classmates may be more highly-touted, Stewart has the potential to be a difference-maker in the frontcourt rotation. -Kaplan
Say what you will about my choosing a two-time captain, former All-ACC player and Final Four star to fill this superlative, but Roach has somehow gone under the radar in an offseason of excitement about Duke’s slew of returning sophomores and talented freshman class. No, Roach will not lead the team in scoring and may even see some statistical dropoff as Proctor takes the reins of a suddenly crowded backcourt, but his consistency and inevitable postseason production should not be taken for granted on a Blue Devil squad good enough to need his experience deep into March. -Levitan
He’s still pretty raw but he can bring a real asset to Duke’s lineup — big-time backcourt depth. He may not find his way into the starting lineup for a while, if at all, but his presence on a roster centered around a potent backcourt pair of Roach and Proctor (plus McCain, if using the exhibition as any indication) could help keep quick reflexes, a keen passing vision and a good shot from distance on the floor. The Harrisburg, N.C., native fills the first-guy-off-the-bench role to keep fresh legs cycling in and out of the lineup and his slotting in with different backcourt combos could be something to look out for. He’s a real catalyst and he will be one to watch for a well-timed explosive run. -Hurewitz
What will Duke’s go-to lineup be?
Proctor, Roach, McCain, Mitchell, Filipowski:
Four of these names will ring a bell on the Duke team sheet, and the other is the top-ranked recruit in the Blue Devils’ freshman class. That’s perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe these five to not only be the best five players on Duke’s roster but also the five most capable of playing with one another most frequently. We’ve already seen the Proctor-Roach combo produce fireworks, Mitchell is quietly excellent and Filipowski is loudly incredible, and without a Dereck Lively II in the lineup I think it’s far more likely Scheyer will throw another guard into the mix. Personally, I find McCain the most complete option, with a strong 6-foot-3 frame and lethal mix of shooting, dribbling and driving capabilities. The likes of Stewart and Foster will undoubtedly contribute in a big way from the bench, but in the biggest games the Blue Devils will play this year, it will be their most experienced guys and their most versatile guard taking the floor. -Long
Proctor, Roach, Foster, Mitchell, Filipowski:
With four returning starters, my main consideration here is whether Scheyer trusts his small-ball lineup in crunch time. Much of that will fall upon Filipowski, who — now with two good hips and some added weight and explosiveness — I would expect to do admirably in the impossible task of replacing Dereck Lively II’s defense in the middle. If that does come to pass, Scheyer could look to one of his two freshman guards to slide in at wing, giving Duke a dangerous five-out attack. I like the way Foster’s off-ball game translates to the college level and expect him to have the full trust of the coaching staff in late-game situations alongside this battle-tested returning squad. -Levitan
Will Duke win the ACC?
Yes: Who else would it be? North Carolina is sure to bounce back and Miami will have another strong season — the 13th-ranked Hurricanes are the second-highest ACC team in the AP Poll — but Duke should come out on top of both. Virginia lost most of its key pieces, and while the Cavaliers will forever give the Blue Devils some trouble, I think they trip up enough throughout their conference slate as the new roster learns to play together. Provided Duke plays up to its potential — and the No. 2 overall ranking it earned in the preseason — it is its own title to lose. -Kaplan
No: While I do think the Blue Devils will hold the best regular-season record in the conference, there are a couple of — actually quite a few — ways I could see them falling short. Obviously it will still come down to whether Duke can win the annual matchups against teams like North Carolina, Virginia and Miami, but the Blue Devils could face some adversity in less-expected matchups. If Filipowski gets into foul trouble, who is able to control the paint? Will the 3-point shot be a reliable source of scoring for a Duke team which will likely be heavily reliant on its star-filled backcourt? Then is the age-old question: can they stay healthy? Any combination of these things, plus many more, not going quite right will sink the Blue Devils, but all signs are pointing toward a stronger and healthy Filipowski, solid and reliable defense from Mitchell, and a developed Proctor playing alongside the experienced Roach. -Hurewitz
Editor's note: This piece is one of many in The Chronicle's 2023-24 Duke men's basketball preview. Check out the rest here.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports 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.
Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.