Davidson-Duke Preview

The Associated Press

(AP) -- - High expectations are nothing new at Duke. What's different this year are the ages of the players who have to live up to them.

A program that usually rises and falls with its seniors now revolves around redshirt sophomore Rodney Hood and freshman phenom Jabari Parker.

What coach Mike Krzyzewski wants is for the other players to blend in with them.

He said Hood and Parker ''really have a chance to be outstanding, and then what we have is a group of players that has to learn to adjust to those two.''

The No. 4 Blue Devils enter as the preseason favorites in the ACC once again, and they're a popular pick to reach their 12th Final Four under Krzyzewski as they open their season by hosting Davidson on Friday night.

To make another Final Four, the upperclassmen will have to grow comfortable in their supporting roles around Hood and Parker, one of the nation's most heavily pursued recruits out of Chicago.

Hood sat out last season after transferring from Mississippi State, where he averaged 10.3 points and 4.8 rebounds, and was praised by Krzyzewski as ''many times was our best player'' last year during practice.

Parker has ''measured up to the level that I want right now, and as long as he continues to do that and show improvement ... if he didn't show improvement, then I'll be disappointed,'' said Krzyzewski, whose team lost to eventual national champion Louisville in a regional final last season. ''But I don't think I'll be disappointed.''

The Blue Devils (30-6) don't have anything that resembles a football depth chart because so many players can play so many positions and Krzyzewski said ''it's not like one guy is trying to beat out another guy.'

Hood considers himself a shooting guard on offense and a forward on defense, and the 6-foot-8 Parker is capable of playing multiple spots. That should make it tough for opponents to match up with them.

The Blue Devils plan to take advantage of that depth and versatility by going at a much faster pace and playing from baseline to baseline. Krzyzewski said this team reminds him of his late 1990s and early 2000s teams ''when we were very athletic - really athletic.'' That worked pretty well in 2001 - Duke won its third national title behind Carlos Boozer and Shane Battier.

Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston have been role players throughout their Duke careers and have been overshadowed by bigger-named teammates from Day 1 - remember, they were part of the same recruiting class as eventual NBA rookie of the year Kyrie Irving. So they say they have no problem putting their egos aside for the good of the team as seniors.

''It's easy - everybody wants to win,'' Thornton said. ''When you want to win, you want to do what the coaches tell you to do, and what they tell us is to do what you can do. ... If you're going to score, score. If you're going to play defense, play defense. But do it the best you can.''

Forward Amile Jefferson could be in for a big year because of his ability to play off of Hood and Parker. Krzyzewski said he ''may complement those two guys better than anybody on our team.''

He expects opposing teams to focus on stopping Hood and Parker and will be ''guarded by a man and a half'' each. Jefferson - a high-energy 6-9 sophomore - could take advantage of that lessened attention and put up big rebounding and second-chance-scoring numbers. He scored 15 points in an exhibition win over Bowie State.

The only current Duke player who has a national championship ring is Andre Dawkins - a fifth-year senior guard who sat out last season while he dealt with his sister's death during his freshman year in 2009-10.

He showed he still has his 3-point touch in the team's only public intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason. Dawkins spent significant time running with the first string during that scrimmage, though sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon started the first preseason game.

Duke has had little trouble with Davidson, dominating a series that began in 1909 by winning the last 24 matchups. The Blue Devils took the latest meeting 67-50 on Jan. 2 at Charlotte, N.C.

The Wildcats went 26-8 and won the Southern Conference last season before losing 59-58 in thrilling fashion to Marquette in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Davidson had led by nine late but couldn't hold on as its 17-game winning streak, at the time the longest in the nation, was snapped.

The Wildcats are led by senior forward De'Mon Brooks, who averaged 13.7 points last season and was selected as the SoCon preseason player of the year. However, he was limited to eight points on 4-of-13 shooting in the last matchup with then-No. 1 Duke.

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