for this game

New era for Duke starts against Columbia

Nov 12, 2006 - 4:23 PM Columbia (11-16) at No. 11 Duke (32-4) 8:00 pm EST

DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams may be gone, but Duke is still among the nation's elite.

Josh McRoberts will take over as one of the team's top players when the 11th-ranked Blue Devils host Columbia in the season opener for both teams.

One of the most consistent programs in college basketball in recent years, Duke went 32-4 last season as it was led by seniors Redick, who finished second in the nation in scoring (26.8), and Williams, a two-time national defensive player of the year.

With that duo gone, the spotlight shifts to McRoberts and Greg Paulus, who will become the first sophomores to serve as team captains in the program's history.

McRoberts, who underwent offseason back surgery, displayed glimpses of greatness last season. However, he could also disappear into the background.

The starting point guard last season, Paulus clearly showed that he has the skills to lead, but whether he can be counted on as a consistent scorer is something that has yet to be determined.

Paulus is questionable for the game after suffering a left foot injury in the team's second practice.

The other member of the tri-captaincy is junior DeMarcus Nelson, who averaged 7.1 points last season despite being slowed by two separate ankle injuries. The team's top athletic player, Nelson will needs to show that he can avoid the injury bug.

Last season, Columbia relied many on sophomores and it reflected in its 11-16 record.

The Lions are led by the frontcourt duo of John Baumann and Ben Nwachukwu, who combined for 24.2 points and 11.4 rebounds as second-year players last season.

Duke, which has won its last 23 home openers, is 1-1 all-time against the Ivy League school.