Blue Devils take on Blue Hose is season debut

Nov 14, 2014 - 5:01 PM Durham, NC ( - The fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils begin their highly anticipated 2014-15 season by taking on the Presbyterian Blue Hose in the opening round of the Coaches versus Cancer Classic at famed Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke won 29 games during the 2013-14 campaign, but finished in a tie for third place in the ACC, behind conference champion Virginia and Syracuse. Mike Krzyzewski's squad once again faltered early on in the NCAA Tournament however, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those players returning to the fold. However, with two high profile players from that squad moving on to the NBA, Duke will have a much different look this season, thanks to a slew of talented incoming freshmen expected to make an immediate impact.

Gregg Nibert has been at the helm of Presbyterian for a quarter century, but last year was one of the toughest, as the Blue Hose managed just six total wins and went a miserable 2-14 in Big South play. All five starters return to the mix for Presbyterian, so the hope is that a more veteran squad will result in more victories this time around.

Duke has won both previous meetings with Presbyterian and holds a +36.0 scoring margin in the two victories. The Blue Devils have won 109 straight non-conference games at home, with the last loss coming in 2000 to St. John's (83-82).

There weren't a whole lot of positives to take from Presbyterian's six-win season a year ago. Nibert's squad closed the year with five straight losses and suffered through a 10-game slide, going winless in the month of January. All five starters return from that team, but the one that really counts is senior guard Jordan Dowling. The 6-5 scoring machine took a ton of shots a year ago, leading to a whopping 20.2 ppg (second in the Big South). Sophomore guards Reggie Dillard (12.1 ppg) and Markus Terry (8.4 ppg) add to the backcourt depth for the Blue Hose, while senior center William Truss (10.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg) is a load in the low post. Defense was a problem for Presbyterian last year, as the team finished a dismal 310th nationally, allowing 76.4 ppg. If that doesn't change this season it won't matter how much Dowling scores.

To say that Duke is loaded with talent may be an understatement. In all the team has nine former McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, the most in the nation (tied with Kentucky). Stars Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have moved on to the NBA, but the aforementioned dearth of quality youngsters should help fill the void. The Blue Devils boast of a really good point guard in Quinn Cook (11.6 ppg, 4.4 apg) and the scary thing is that he might be beaten out for the job by freshman sensation Tyus Jones (6-1, 180). Jones is a superb court general with a pass-first attitude, but possesses the requisite skills to fill up the basket as well. Throw in junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon (9.9 ppg) and freshman Grayson Allen (another McDonald's All-American) and Coach K has to like his options along the perimeter. The frontcourt is even deeper thanks to the arrival of seven-foot freshman Jahlil Okafor. The top recruit in the country, Okafor (7-0, 265) is already slated as the No. 1 pick in next year's NBA Draft. A do it all post presence, Okafor could vie for National Player of the Year this season. Junior Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 260) will give Okafor a breather at times and keep the big guy fresh. Versatile junior Amile Jefferson (6.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and freshman Justise Winslow will get their chance to shine right from the get-go.

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