Is Duke the Favorite to Win it all?

A few years ago coach Mike Krzyzewski did not believe in the mantra of one-and-done players. Well now, the tide has changed in Durham, North Carolina as the Duke Blue Devils have been a prime location for notable recent one-and-done players. From 2011 to 2017, the list includes Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Brandon Ingram, and Jayson Tatum. Five of which were selected within the top three picks. The trend will continue as Duke standout freshman Marvin Bagley is projected to be a top-three pick in the upcoming 2018 NBA draft.

This year the 2018-2019 season will feature perhaps two or three one-and-done players in Duke’s elite class. Without playing a game yet, this class has already been deemed “one of the best in college basketball history.” It features guards RJ Barrett and Tre Jones (the younger brother of Tyus), as they were ranked first and tenth in the 2018 class.

They will also bring in forwards Cameron Reddish, Zion Williamson, and Joey Baker, the second, third, and 31st ranked players in the aforementioned 2018 class. This will be the third straight year the Blue Devils will usher in the top ranked class according to ESPN. While Duke has had success in recruiting, they haven’t had much success in the NCAA Tournament.

In 2015, Duke, led by freshman Okafor, Winslow, Jones, and Grayson Allen, won their first championship since 2010. This recruiting class has the feel of the 2015 team. It has four of the top 10 freshmen coming in to join men’s college basketball winningest coach, just like 2015. The 2018 class looks to do the same in winning a national championship.

Projected starting lineup for the 2018-2019 Duke Blue Devils:

PG: Tre Jones
SG: RJ Barrett
SF: Cameron Reddish
PF: Zion Williamson
C: Marques Bolden

Scoring and playmaking won’t be an issue for this lineup. Barrett and Reddish should provide much of the scoring, while Jones will run the point and be more of a distributor and floor general. Williamson, the dynamic Internet dunking sensation, should provide power and energy to the lineup. Third-year player Bolden will be the oldest and most experienced player on the roster having played in 53 career games.

Barrett, who is the godson of former back-to-back MVP Steve Nash, won the Gatorade Player of the Year as well as taking home the honors of Naismith Player of the Year all the while leading his high school, Montverde Academy in Florida, to an undefeated season. He’s touted as the best Canadian born player and the next big thing in basketball.

Learning the game at a young age from Nash and his father, Rowan who was a former Canadian league star, helped Barrett blossom into the gifted player he is today. He can essentially do all things on the court at any given time. While Barrett has all the accolades, his teammate Williamson is perhaps the most hyped high school player since one, LeBron James.

Williamson has been all across social media platforms showcasing his highlight reel dunks. Very VERY impressive dunks I might add. Only 17 years old, Williamson is a physical anomaly. At 6’6 272 pounds, Williamson is built more like a modern NFL linebacker than a college basketball player. He has the power of legendary dunkers Shawn Kemp and Larry Johnson and has the flair of Jason Richardson and Vince Carter. Now dunks are impressive, but Williamson will have to show the ability to post up and play in the paint against other players that are 6’6 and up as he will more than likely be tasked at playing the power forward position.

While Barrett and Williamson receive all the hype, the underrated and perhaps most NBA ready prospect is Reddish. Praised for his ability to play smothering defense and shoot off the dribble, Reddish has the humility and poise coaches and scouts love.

Eric Bossi of Rivals said, “He’s like Jimmy Butler 2.0 to me…If you go in the lab and create a basketball player, it would probably look something like Cam Reddish.” Co-signing what Bossi said former NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway said “Cam is probably the best overall talent.”  Reddish could be another one-and-done for Duke, barring injury as he could be the next Ingram or Tatum.

With the collective talent of this elite freshman class and the guidance of Coach K, Duke is considered the favorite to win the 2019 NCAA Tournament. They enter, as of today, with +500 odds to win it all, followed by the defending champs, Villanova, at +800 odds and Kansas at +850. Duke will debut their new roster starting in August as they compete on a Canadian Tour against some of Canada’s best basketball programs.

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