There are only a handful of teams in the history of sports who have been truly immortalized. The 1927 New York Yankees, the 1985 Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Bulls of the mid-’90s are some of the teams that come to mind. Not only did these teams win championships, but they distinguished themselves through their sheer domination as they dismantled their opponents. The Duke University men’s basketball team of 2016-17 has all of the ingredients to be remembered as one of the greatest teams in the history of college basketball. They are fortunate enough to have Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski roaming their sideline. Despite his hair color indicating otherwise, he has been the head coach at Duke University for 36 years, and that experience is priceless.
Duke also has a surplus of young NBA-bound talent which is paramount to winning in college basketball nowadays. To blend with this young talent, Krzyzewski has the perfect mix of returning players who will not only play pivotal roles this season, but guide the rookies as they go through their first, and perhaps only, collegiate season. The Duke Blue Devils will not only go undefeated this season, but are unquestionably the favorites to win the national championship. When it is all said and done, the 2016-17 Duke team will be remembered as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time.
Coaching in college basketball is everything. It is the only sport in which coaches are more prominent and more important in the overall scheme of things than the players. They are the foundation and face of the program. It all starts and runs through them. Having a legendary coach such as Krzyzewski is a major advantage on the court and in recruiting for Duke every year. But the Blue Devil squad this year will need his experience. Having all but four underclassmen, this Duke team will need a calming voice that has been through it all. There is no better coach that fits such a description than Krzyzewski. Coach K has made the Final Four an astounding 12 times, while being fortunate enough to take home five national championships. He should be making space for a sixth trophy because Duke winning this year is almost a lock.
Duke’s rookie class has the potential to be special…Fab Five-type special. Their rookie class is made up of a quartet of five-star recruits in Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, and Frank Jackson to go along with Australian swingman Jack White and the number nine power forward in the nation, according to ESPN, Javin DeLaurier.
Get used to these six names. Four of them certainly, and potentially all six, will go on to play in the NBA. Not many college teams can make such a claim. Giles is a 6’10” power forward who moves like a guard. He can shoot it and is a monster protecting the rim. Then there is Tatum. Had the St. Louis native been allowed to enter the NBA Draft straight from high school he might have been a top-five selection. The kid is legit. Standing at 6’10”, Tatum is a threat to score from all levels: post ups, mid range, and even from three-point land. At 270 pounds, Bolden is a behemoth on the block. He has a polished post game, giving Duke a bona fide presence in the low post. Jackson is a physical specimen. Impressively, Jackson won the McDonald’s Slam Dunk Contest. DeLaurier and White are surely talented as well, but will play second fiddle to the four super frosh. When it is all said and done, this class has an opportunity to be one of the most illustrious that college basketball has ever seen.
It is rare for a college basketball team to have success if they do not have upperclassmen with an abundance of experience. This Blue Devil team has five players on its roster that were on the team that won the national championship in 2015. Among them is Grayson Allen, who is returning for his junior season after averaging nearly 22 points per game this past season. His potent ability to score, paired with the abilities of the incoming class, will surely be a lethal combination. Opposing teams will be dumbfounded when trying to find a way to hinder Duke. Also, the return of Amile Jefferson is very significant for the Blue Devils. Jefferson, a fifth year senior, will unquestionably be the leader of this Duke team. Some other notable returnees for Duke include Matt Jones, who averaged 10 points per game last season as a junior, and shifty left-handed guard Luke Kennard, who averaged 12 points per game in his rookie campaign. Duke does not only have youth on its roster this year, but also experienced players who understand what it takes to separate themselves from college basketball’s blue-bloods.
The 2016-17 Duke Blue Devils have an opportunity to secure their place on a short list of the all-time great college basketball teams. Going undefeated in their quest for a National Championship is within reach. They have all of the components that are needed to be an unbeatable college basketball team. They have a legendary coach in Krzyzewski. He will have an advantage over any coach that he may face over the course of the season. Duke also has a legendary incoming class, which is always vital to success in college basketball. Giles, Tatum, Howard, and Bolden will be key cogs on this Duke team as they pursue perfection. Arguably, the most important component that a team needs to be successful at the college level is experience. Duke’s roster has plenty of experience and brings back a plethora of scoring from last season. Led by Allen, the Duke Blue Devils will likely have a historic season.