College Basketball Preseason Top 25: #4 Duke

Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports

Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports

4. Duke Blue Devils

With all the hype that surrounded the Andrew Wiggins commitment to Kansas, it seems people have forgotten the “other” wunderkind, the guy who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the caption, “The Best High School Player since LeBron James.” That’d be Jabari Parker, whose hype machine was almost as powerful as Wiggins’, it just ran out of gas sooner. At 6-8, 235 with guard skills, Parker may be the most versatile freshman in the game. He’s incredibly athletic, can shoot from anywhere on the floor, finishes strong around the rim, and has the ball handling ability and agility of a shooting guard. In short, he’s two players in one–both a powerful power forward and a skilled, slashing 2. There’s no question he’s the most talented player to take the floor for Duke since Kyrie Irving.

If Parker had been joining last season’s version of the Blue Devils, with big man Mason Plumlee (17.1 ppg, 10 rpg), lights-out shooter Seth Curry (17.5 ppg) and lights-out shooting big man Ryan Kelly (12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg), they would have been the unquestioned No. 1 team in the nation. But like Wiggins at Kansas, Parker arrives in Durham during a rebuilding year. Those three are gone, and replacing them will be tough.

6-2 junior Quinn Cook is expected to take over the point guard duties. Cook led the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio last season and averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. Also back is do-everything guard Tyler Thornton and All-ACC freshman selection Rasheed Sulaimon (11.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Sophomore forward Rodney Hood (10.3 ppg) is also back. There’s also another Plumlee (they’re spawning like giant clones from some horror movie), and this one, Marshall, will look to have a bigger impact in his second season.

BOTTOM LINE: Any team coached by Mike Krzyzewski is going to be dangerous. But giving him a talent like Parker to work with is almost unfair. Duke isn’t very deep and will have to navigate an impossibly difficult ACC this season, so there are bound to be pitfalls. Still, as Parker gets more comfortable and the team starts to come together in its respective roles, Duke is going to be dangerous.

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