Preseason Sweet 16: Duke Blue Devils

Preseason Sweet 16: Duke Blue Devils
By Clark Kellogg, Yahoo Sports
October 24, 2005

Clark Kellogg
Yahoo Sports
Editor's note: With the men's college basketball season starting to ramp back up, Yahoo! Sports analyst Clark Kellogg picks the teams he thinks have the best shot at making it to the Sweet 16 in 2006.

Each pick is listed alphabetically. Check back during the week for his latest selections.

Other Sweet 16 teams:
Arizona | Boston College | Connecticut | Gonzaga | Iowa | Kentucky | Louisville | Michigan St.
Nevada | Oklahoma | Stanford | Texas | Villanova | Wake Forest | West Virginia

Things look good for coach Al Skinner with five of his top eight players from last year returning.
An NIT berth last year was another good step for Oliver Purnell and the Tigers. All-ACC freshman team member Cliff Hammonds looks solid.
It's just a matter of time before Leonard Hamilton does at FSU what he did at Oklahoma St. and Miami – build a winning program.
A young but talented team will need to grow up quickly in the ACC.
A healthy D.J. Strawberry, a strong group of experienced seniors and no NCAA tournament last season could fuel the Terps to a top-three finish in the league.
With the dynamic duo of Guillermo Diaz and Rob Hite (36 ppg), plus the conference's second-best rebounder, Anthony King, all back, the Canes are expecting to improve on last year's 16-win season and NIT appearance.
It's time to start over, but not rebuild for the Tar Heels. David Noel could have a breakout season.
They need Cameron Bennerman and Ilian Evtimov to produce all season to match last year's tournament success.
First-year head coach Dave Leitao has All-ACC freshman Sean Singletary to run the show for the Cavs.
ACC coach of the year Seth Greenberg returns almost everyone from a team that surprised many by going 8-8 in conference play.
Justin Gray is capable of filling the void created at point guard when Chris Paul went to the NBA, but he's not the only answer for the Demon Deacons at point.
Duke Blue Devils
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Duke enjoyed another stellar season in 2004-05. It won the ACC tournament, landed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and made its eighth straight trip to the Sweet 16.

While the Blue Devils didn't win their fourth national title, I thought last season's team got the most out of its roster. Duke relied heavily on J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams and Daniel Ewing to get wins, and in most games the three stars stepped up and carried the weight. But foul trouble or an opponent's deeper roster proved troublesome.

The Blue Devils lost Ewing to the NBA, but Redick might be the nation's best perimeter shooter and Williams dominates his position at both ends of the court. With both Redick and Williams back for their senior years, Duke has a strong core to build around.

Although they will again be called upon to do the majority of the heavy lifting on offense and defense, Redick and Williams won't have to do it alone. Sean Dockery, Lee Melchionni and DeMarcus Nelson – three reserves who had occasional moments of brilliance last season – should be much improved after a summer of working out. Add to that the arrival of a highly touted freshman class, and Redick and Williams could have the strong supporting cast they lacked last season.

As for who gets the start at point guard and who picks up the slack at the other wing positions, that remains to be seen. There's also a need for someone to step up and complement Williams down low. While there clearly is enough talent on hand to fill these spots, that talent hasn't yet been proven. But having a deeper roster can only benefit Duke. The Blue Devils often had to play conservatively last season due to a lack of depth and limited versatility in their personnel. That won't be the case this year.

At the very least, Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski will have more talented bodies to put into specific roles. This should allow Duke to become a much more aggressive and attacking team at both ends of the floor, and that spells trouble for the opposition.

Coach K's staff is one of the finest in the country, and with Redick and Williams, the pillars are in place for an ACC title and a long tournament run. Consistent play from the returning reserves and the incoming freshmen will determine if that run leads to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Clark Kellogg is Yahoo! Sports' NCAA men's basketball analyst. Send Clark a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Monday, Oct 24, 2005 4:18 pm, EDT

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