ACC Hoops Preview: Duke

Today we take a look at the Duke Blue Devils in our series on the upcoming ACC season.

Duke, like a lot of ACC teams this season, will have to depend heavily on freshmen to have a successful season and that is always a dicey proposition. The Devils do return some players who saw considerable minutes last year for the team tied for the 6th best record in the ACC regular season.

The biggest question marks will revolve around their inside game which largely left when Josh McRoberts declared for the NBA after his sophomore season. Brian Zoubek, a 7'1" C who has had some injury problems, will have to improve quite a bit in order for them to be able to keep teams honest inside. Lance Thomas also returns after a rather uneventful freshman season for such a highly rated player. Thomas is 6'8" but needs to gain some much needed weight and strength, although he did battle admirably at times under the basket last year. He has some undeniable skills but needs to cut down of unforced errors and become more assertive inside.

Oft injured David McClure has been a factor on the boards and on defense but appears to lack much of an offensive game and listed at 6'6", is a tweener at forward.

On the perimeter, the Blue Devils appear to be in much better shape talent and depth wise. Returning to run the team is Greg Paulus, a frustratingly inconsistent point guard who can get hot and hit open threes but also throw the ball into the fifth row at times. Paulus has some good point guard skills but lacks the elite athleticism that others in the conference possess. His continued development and another years experience will be very important to this rather young team.

Demarcus Nelson, a 6'4" dynamo, is unquestionably the most versatile and important Blue Devil returning to the squad. As a senior, he will have to accept the mantle of leadership with steady, tough play for this team to have any chance at challenging for a top tier finish. He rebounds remarkably well for a guard and is a slasher who can also hit some open shots.

The designated shooter returns in the person of Jon Scheyer, a 6'5" wing who must shoot better than the 36% from three he shot last season. Scheyer is a competent protector of the ball and an excellent free throw shooter. Returning at the 2/3 positions is Gerald Henderson, a human highlight film at 6'4" who was a little disappointing from a shooting standpoint in his freshman year. Henderson is by far the best athlete on this team (and one of the best in the conference) and his growth will be instrumental to how well Duke ends up.

Martynas Pocius came in as a freshman with a rep as a lights out shooter but failed to prove it as a freshman. At 6'5", he is a good athlete vertically but lacks the necessary quickness laterally to guard similarly sized players in the ACC. He must do well what he was brought in for and that was shooting the ball. The new players form an excellent class which will have to provide substantial help to the returning players for the Devils.

Kyle Singler, a 6'8" inside/outside player with good skills, is the most heralded recruit in Duke's class and by far the most important. He is most effective playing on the wing with his shooting ability but will likely have to play inside for the Blue Devils, and this especially becomes true if Zoubek can't get the job done. He will provide instant offense to a team that has some questions on where the points will come from. One thing for sure is that he will have to improve defensively to play for Mike Krzyzewski because one thing Duke will do is play defense.

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