The past few years Duke Blue Devil basketball fans have experienced a rollercoaster of events. The year 2010 saw them winning a National Champion, but were only able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in 2011. However, the following season was when things started to fluctuate even more. That year Duke was upset in the Round of 64 by C.J. McCollum and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. 2013 saw the Blue Devils return to grace with an Elite Eight appearance, but a year later Duke was knocked out in the first round again, this time by the Mercer Bears. Duke was crowned National Champions again in 2015, but regressed last year, therefore keeping the current trend alive. Based on that trend Duke should tend to fare pretty well this year, but their success definitely won't be based on pattern.
Entering this season as the clear favorite to win the National Championship, Duke will be under a great deal of scrutiny this year. Seeing as they have the winningest coach in NCAA Basketball history, coach Mike Krzyzewski, I like their chances. Add in the fact that they have one of the best recruiting classes frankly of all time, the Blue Devils should be a juggernaut this upcoming season. Even though you may be reading this right now and think the Blue Devils have everything figured out, there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
One of the first unanswered question regards the starting rotation. Seeing as the Duke roster is filled to the brim with talent, minutes will go around sparingly. A roster battle that will wage is the fight for the starting center gig. On one hand you've got the fifth-year senior Amile Jefferson who is coming back after having his season cut short prematurely by injury. On the other hand you have the freshman Marques Bolden. Even though Bolden is the top center in his class, he could face playing a supporting role coming off the bench in favor of a more experienced player.
Another lineup battle will be for the shooting guard position. While this battle isn't really for the starting spot, it is for the supporting roles. The starter will most definitely be returner Grayson Allen who has established himself as one of college basketball's premier talents. After not having much of his role in his freshman season, Allen leaped into America's hearts after an unbelieveable NCAA Championship performance.
Down by as much as ten at one point, Allen was called up off the bench to provide some energy for the Blue Devils. He then went on to secure the lead for Duke and in doing so, gave them their fifth National Championship. Last year for his sophomore season, Allen had a much larger role in the offense. That in turn led to him finishing near the top of the NCAA in scoring. This year Allen won't be leaned on as heavily as he was last year, giving him a chance to become a much more efficient player.
The other shooting guards for Duke are the lefty Luke Kennard and Matt Jones. Kennard, a sophomore, is one of the top three-point shooters in all of the ACC. While he wasn't as efficient from behind the arc, most of that can be credited to nerves. This year Kennard may not garner as much playing time last year, but he will prove to be a valuable role player down the stretch for the Blue Devils.
Matt Jones is one of Duke's two seniors this year. He is another player who can be deadly from behind the arc, but last year he was regarded as an afterthought at times. Jones is also prided for his defense which is something that Duke will value very highly this upcoming season. Last year Kennard and Jones both were starters/sixth man; this year they may have a diminished role.
Small forward is a position where Duke has arguably its best player in Jayson Tatum. Tatum is sort of like a Swiss army knife seeing as he can slice up a defense in a variety of ways. He can both attack the rim and shoot from behind the arc. That combination should make him deadly for opponents. However, a minor ankle injury could keep him out for Duke's first few games. Duke is very fortunate that the injury is quite manageable, therefore not making it a problem in the long term. Come June 2017, Tatum should be one of the first names off the board in the NBA draft.
Another small forward that could potentially contribute is yet another freshman Javin DeLaurier. DeLaurier is an additional player who can contribute in a multitude of ways for the Blue Devils. As I stated earlier in the article, minutes will go around sparingly for the Blue Devils therefore leaving DeLaurier not much time to show what he is capable of on the court.
Last year Duke was in dire need of a point guard. After watching Derryck Thornton struggle at the position last year, Duke fans should feel a bit reassured watching Frank Jackson bring the ball up. The freshman's natural position is shooting guard, but he is a talented point guard as well. Jackson is yet another scoring threat for something opposing teams will have to gameplan for. However, if Jackson struggles, Jayson Tatum may have an increased role as a point forward.
Finally, let's go over to the power forward position. Here we have top prospect Harry Giles who was the #1 recruit for most of last year. The only reason why he didn't continue to hold that distinction is because he is coming off of an ACL tear. If he is healthy he will pay huge dividends for Duke. However, Duke should not feel pressured to rush Giles as they can have both Jefferson and Bolden playing alongside one other as the two big men.
Just to recap what I believe Duke's lineup will look like to start the season, I expect something alongside the lines of Frank Jackson at point, Grayson Allen as the shooting guard, Jayson Tatum playing small forward, Amile Jefferson at the four, and Marques Bolden rounding things out as the center. That lineup could change as the year progresses especially when Giles is fully healthy or if one of Dukes shooters goes on an absolute tear. Because of this strong lineup, Duke should be feared throughout the year.
Even though they have a difficult schedule, people have been toying with the idea of a 40-0 season. The closest team to come near a 40-0 season was the Kentucky Wildcats in 2015; the same year that Duke won the national championship. Kentucky was undefeated until their final four game against the Wisconsin Badgers.
There, they had a heartbreaking ending to a magical season. One of the main reasons for the Wildcats' success can be attributed to their depth. Since that team featured a handful of stars, for most of the season Coach John Calipari employed a platoon system. A similar approach could possibly be used by Coach K with Duke this year. However, Coach K is not known for using more that eight or nine players on a given day so this might be tricky for him. Even though it could solve the problem of minutes and playing time, it isn't the best approach for the Blue Devils.
Since Duke is in the ACC, they have one of the toughest schedules this year. Not only do they have games against their main ACC advisaries such as Virginia, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse, and of course North Carolina, but they also have a game scheduled against Kansas in a game that should be a great one.
It would be foolish to expect a 40-0 season out of them, but it is not entirely out of the equation. While a perfect season is will be difficult for the Blue Devils, they should still make it to at least the Final Four. Duke is easily the best team in college basketball; they are the favorites to walk away champions. Unless something major derails their season, expect them to do just that.
In my first daily fantasy lineup post, I had a few decisions that ended up panning out such as Ezekiel Elliot and Spencer Ware, but some did not. However, this week I plan on being a bit more consistent. Just to keep in mind, this is based on Yahoo Fantasy $ amounts.
Quarterback: Philip Rivers $39- Any time a quarterback is facing the Falcons, they are worth a start. Add in the fact that this is Philip Rivers we are talking about, and you have a chance to see 30 point production. Even if he is without Travis Benjamin, he still has plenty of options to pass the football to. The Falcons have been especially inept against tall wideouts, which means Tyrell Williams (who I will talk more about later) should cut up their defense for possibly a couple of scores. Another solid play here is Tom Brady up against the anything but asphyxiating Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
Running Back: Leveon Bell $37- Leveon should easily finish as this weeks top running back. With Landry Jones under center instead of Ben Roethlisberger, Bell's usage rate should be through the roof. Coach Mike Tomlin will probably want to ease Jones into the game, meaning Bell should be fed early and often. Expect a stat line to tune of 120 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, and 7 receptions for 63 yards with a touchdown reception.
Running Back: Spencer Ware $23- Even if Jamaal Charles plays this week, Ware is the Chiefs back that you want to start. Ware has value as both a runner and a receiver; giving him plenty of value against a New Orleans Saints defense that is near the bottom of the league in both rushing and passing defense. Expect around 100 total yards with a trip to the end zone.
Wide Receiver: Tyrell Williams $23- As I mentioned earlier, Williams could have a breakout game this week against the Falcons. Williams has value as a redzone threat because of his size, but he also has big-play potential with his game changing speed. Having Travis Benjamin questionable to suit up is also an added bonus. Anything around 90 yards and a pair of scores can be expected from Williams.
Wide Receiver: Golden Tate $18- Although his game last week could be considered a fluke, I still like his fantasy appeal in a matchup with the Redskins. Hopefully (for Tate) Josh Norman will be shadowing Marvin Jones all day . If Jones is being shutdown, Tate will have more room to operate and as he showed last week, that can pay off in a big way. Realistically thinking, Tate should net you 80 yards and a score.
Wide Receiver: Mohamed Sanu $17- Sanu is one of my favorite picks this week as he has become the complement to Julio Jones that Matt Ryan indubitably needed. He is yet another player who draws an excellent matchup against a banged up Chargers secondary. I expect Sanu to get anything in the neighborhood of 18 fantasy points this week.
Tight End: CJ Uzomah $10- Filling in for the injured Tyler Eifert, Uzomah has good touchdown potential against the Cleveland Browns. Don't expect a huge game out of him, but around 10 points is realistic.
Flex: Mike Gillislee $12- Yet another backup thrown into a starting role because of injury, Gillislee has plenty of potential this week as long as the Bills stay away from a committee. If they end up going with a committee backfield, switch Gillislee with Jacquizz Rodgers and switch the Denver Broncos defense with the Bengals defense.
Defense: Denver Broncos $20- Denver should further solidify itself as the leagues top defense when they go up against the Houston Texans. You can expect a pair of interceptions, four sacks, and 14-21 points allowed.
Last week in Week 3 Terrelle Pryor took the fantasy world by storm. He accomplished that by filling up the box score in a game that felt like a high school game. Pryor filled up the box score to the tune of 8 receptions for 144 receiving yards, 21 rushing yards, 35 passing yards, and a rushing touchdown. Even though Pryor had the luxury of playing the Miami Dolphins last week, he has an even better matchup against the far from asphyxiating Washington Redskins defense.
The Browns offense is severely lacking in offensive options which will benefit Pryor greatly. A converted quarterback, the main concern regarding Pryor is who will be throwing him passes. Even though he is their top receiver with Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon sidelined, don't expect Pryor to garner over 100 receiving yards this week. However, his value mainly rests in the fact that Pryor will get snaps in the wildcat formation, and as the Browns' goal-line QB.
Because of the aforementioned reasons, Pryor should be stating in your daily or season-long fantasy lineup, whether he is sitting on your bench or sitting on the waiver-wire. My projections for Pryor this week are 8 receptions for 125 receiving yards, 48 rushing yards, and 32 passing yards. I also expect him to get both a receiving touchdown and rushing touchdown against the Redskins. Based on non-ppr ESPN scoring, that will come out to 29 fantasy points which is well within Pryor's potential.