The Duke Blue Devils came very close to yet another Final Four trip last season as a #2 seed only to be upended by the eventual champs, the Louisville Cardinals.

Duke is always a contender as it’s a hotbed for recruiting. Let’s see what’s in store for the 2013-2014 Duke Blue Devils.

Pitino’s Revenge

Image previewCoach Mike Krzyzewski usually comes up on the winning end in rivalries, but Rick Pitino got his revenge 20 years in the making after Christian Laettner’s last second full court catch and shot from Grant Hill that sent Pitino’s then Kentucky Wildcats packing.

Aside from John Wooden and his legendary UCLA team, Mike Krzyzewski has been the best coach, running the best program in college basketball, but chalk one up for Pitino.

Aside from the loss, Duke was embarrassed in their Elite 8 matchup with Louisville in which they lost 85-63. The Devils couldn’t stop Peyton Siva from driving to the hoop and look for Krzyzewski to tighten up the Duke defense this season.

Huge Losses

As seasons complete, colleges lose their stars to either the NBA or graduation and in Duke’s case, they lose 3 huge contributors in Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, and Ryan Kelly. Kelly will always hold a place in the Duke fans hearts for the lights out performance that he put up in his first game back from injury. It’s time to move on.

Key Returnees

Quinn Cook returns to the Blue Devils as the leader of this team at the point guard position. Last year, Cook exceeded expectations by providing a tremendous amount of minutes and being one of Duke’s biggest contributors on the court.

On the season, Cook averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. Cook is a typical Duke player that excels at the fundamentals of basketball. He’s a 87.7% shooter from the foul line along with committing just 2.2 turnovers per game. Duke is in good hands with Quinn Cook as the “quarterback”.

Tyler Thornton is also their as a key defender. Thronton needs to work on his offensive game as he was moved from starter to a bench player last season, but he gained invaluable experience and we should see great improvement from the senior this season.

The forward position will be secured by sophomore Rasheed Suliamon. Suliamon was the model of inconsistency last season as his performance in the Elite 8 proved, but this is a player with a major upside. Suliamon had 3 games of 20 points or more highlighted by a 27 point performance on 10 of 15 shooting against Boston College. Look for Suliamon to be one of the go to guys for Coach K offensively .

On a Mission

Andre Dawkins will be slated to return as a 5th year senior after missing last year due to the grieving period of the death of his sister. Look for Dawkins to have something to prove. I consider him Duke’s “X Factor”. Dawkins is a known sharpshooter and averaged 39.2 % from 3 point range in the 2011-2012 season.

It’s very difficult to replace a player of the caliber of Mason Plumlee, but Amile Jefferson will try to do his part. Jefferson got his feet wet last season and for the most part was a very serviceable player, averaging 4 points and 2.9 rebounds in limited action. Size is a concern, but expect the players around Jefferson to make him better.

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Rodney Hood Transfers to Duke

People are focused on Duke’s prized possession in top recruit Jabari Parker, but Hood had to sit out an entire season to get to play in Cameron Indoor Stadium and will be ready.

Hood is a transfer from Mississippi State and aside from being a top recruit, was an All SEC Freshman in the 2011 season, averaging double-digits in points and playing big-time defense. Hood can do the dirty work while having the ability to be a scorer. Coach Krzyzewski and the Cameron Crazies have to be happy about this.

Jabari Parker

Duke landed ESPN’s #2 ranked player in their top 100 recruits in power forward Jabari Parker. Parker is quite similar to a Chris Webber in that he can shoot from the perimeter, has great ball handling skills, and can play in the post. Coach Krzyzewski likes his players to graduate, but the NBA will be calling for this stud.

Outcome

With regards to our NCAAB picks, e can expect Duke to be a title contender. They have all of the pieces. Cook will run the show, Hood has the experience, and Parker has all-world talent. Let’s not forget that Duke has the best coaching crew in basketball. We can possibly see another title this season as Duke dominates the ACC and the NCAA.

Duke at 10/1 seems like a great value bet!