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The Scholarly Spotlight: Duke Blue Devils

Duke University has one of the most legendary basketball programs of all time. They have produced five No.1 overall picks in NBA draft history, more than any other school. Hall Of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski led the program for 42 years. During his reign, they won five national championships. He announced his retirement in 2022, and this signaled the beginning of a new era. 

 

 Head Coach John Scheyer has massive shoes to fill, but he has shown potential during his first two seasons. He learned from Krzyzewski as an Assistant Coach from 2014 to 2018 and was promoted to associate head coach from 2018 to 2022 until Krzyzewski retired.  Through his first two seasons as head coach, Scheyer has amassed a 51-16 coaching record and made the NCAA tournament his first season leading the team. He is also an alumnus who played the game, and his history as a player allows his student-athletes to trust his guidance. 


They are 2nd in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 24-7 record, and they are ranked 11th in ESPN’s Associated Press top 25 Rankings. Compared to their standard, the Blue Devils have more losses on their record than in previous years. Throughout the season, they had multiple upset losses to the Pittsburgh Panthers and Georgia Tech Hornets, two unranked teams. Even though they lost games they were favored in, they never lost more than two in a row all season.


Center Kyle Filipowski is the leader of the current Blue Devil generation, and he is a stellar talent in the post. He won ACC Rookie Of The Year and ACC Tournament MVP. Now, in his sophomore year, he improved his shot IQ, playmaking, and defensive decision-making.  


He averages 16.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, and 1.6 BPG while shooting 50.4% from the field.  Filipowski can also spread the floor with his 3-point shooting, providing great spacing for his teammates. For a college player, he has good size as a seven-footer who weighs 248 pounds.  NBA Scouts predict he will be a first-round pick when he gets drafted.

 

Filipowski was recruited alongside Mark Mitchell during the summer of 2022, and they're both showing rapid improvement. Mitchell's athleticism allows him to ignore contact and dunk on defenders. He has an NBA build in college, standing at 6'9 and weighing 232 pounds. His physicality is a significant help in the post, and he plays hard on both ends of the floor. Jeremy Roach helped Filipowski and Mitchell adjust to the collegiate level during their first year.


Roach is a Senior Guard who has vastly improved during his tenure. He has developed into a 3-point sharpshooter with good perimeter defense and leads the team in steals (1.2). His free throw percentage has improved to 85.7%, making him a constant threat at the line for opposing teams. He is the second leading scorer, and Scheyer relies on his consistent shooting stroke nightly. Roach pairs well with Tyrese Proctor in the backcourt together.


Proctor focused on his shooting last summer after his first year. He improved his 3-point shooting, increasing his percentage from 32.0% to 37.0, but his free throw percentage dropped from 87% to 76. His shot percentage increased from 38.1% to 45.5 due to more efficient attempts.  His experiences during his first year were vital to his development, and NBA scouts have noticed his progression.


Blue Devil fans are also happy about the arrival of star freshman Jared McCain. His sudden impact was unexpected and has provided a massive boost in depth. McCain is averaging 13.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 1.8 AST while shooting 40% from beyond the arc. He has displayed significant upside during his first season.


During McCain’s high school tenure, he was ranked as the # 22 recruit in the class of 2023. After witnessing his performances on the world stage, his high school ranking is considered a result of his disposition. He has risen to the occasion throughout the regular season, but the tournament atmosphere will be an environment he has never experienced before.


He is projected to be a first-round pick this summer. A good performance in the ACC tournament and March Madness could raise his draft stock even more. McCain's performances on the court intrigued the organic hydration brand RECOVER-180 to sign him to an NIL deal. He was featured in a commercial shortly after partnering with the company.


Filiposwki, Roach, McCain, Mitchell, and Proctor have stood out this year with their performances, but the Blue Devil bench is a significant reason for their success.  Caleb Foster is a sharpshooting freshman with great size and athleticism at the Point Guard position. He is shooting an impressive 40.6% from beyond the arc. Foster isn’t ready to declare for the draft, but he has the potential to claim some individual ACC awards as he develops throughout his tenure. 


The 2024 ACC tournament begins on March 12th. Historic rival UNC is their biggest threat after losing to them twice in the regular season, and the Tarheels are ranked 1st in the ACC. The Blue Devils are currently +2500 on the betting odds to win the 2024 NCAA National Championship.


The last time Duke University claimed a national championship in basketball was in 2015, and their most recent Final Four appearance was two years ago. The UConn Huskies are their most significant threat to win the National Championship. Tristen Newton and Donovan Clingan have played phenomenally this year. The Huskies are currently at +450 odds, the most diminutive betting underdog this season.


The ACC & NCAA tournaments will dictate the true potential of the current Blue Devil generation. Their lineage is legendary, and the expectations are incredibly high every year. Regardless of whoever fulfills the head coach position, the comparisons to Krzyzewski will never cease. Scheyer must prove to the world the Blue Devil culture is stronger than ever before and his team is capable of the task.


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