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Duke Blue Devils: Season Recap

One week ago the Duke Blue Devil’s season came to an end, with the loss to Virginia Commonwealth. And as I write this Duke nation is talking about the departure of Josh McRoberts.

The season hasn’t been a highlight for this young Duke team. They have had to deal with losing like no other Duke has had to do in a decade. The final record was 22-11, which for most teams is pretty darn good. However, this is Duke, but it wasn’t a typical Duke team. The national media and Duke-haters everywhere had many chances this season to go on a rampage. Headlines everywhere asked the questions, Is this the end of Duke?  Has Coach K lost his touch? Everywhere you looked people seemed to be smiling about the punch in the stomach that Duke received this year.

Coming into this season, Coach K warned everyone about how young and inexperienced this team is, and growing pains would be apart of the whole season. However, Duke early in the season, looked like every other Duke team that came before them. Maybe not scoring a hundred points, but winning games at an alarming rate. Then the ACC season came along, and brought Duke back down to earth. After two losses to open conference play, Duke went on a four game winning streak, then lost four in a row, and then won four in a row. However, Duke ended the season with a lose to Maryland, to UNC, and then got bounced for in the first round against NC State.

The end of the regular season and conference tournament play was a relief for Duke. The ACC season took a toll on this team, and they finished with a non-Duke like record of 8-8 in the league. Once forced with the idea of not making the NCAA tournament, Duke was able to manage a sixth seed, which was the lowest in a decade. However, Duke fans looked forward to being down playing in the rough ACC and playing opponents never seen before. We got our wish when Duke faced first round opponent VCU. On paper Duke was a better team. VCU didn’t get the message, and the skilled guard Eric Maynor took the game over and eventually hit the game winning shot, forcing Duke to end its season earlier than usual.

The season was an up and down affair, that left a sour taste in Duke national’s mouth. At times, this team looked tired and uninspired. The offensive struggles were hidden early by stellar defense. However, the defensive play didn’t last forever and it showed with Duke losing their last four games.

Greg Paulus was the most abused player all season. After being hampered with injuries in the preseason, he looked like a deer in headlights. This led to a criticism onslaught, which only rivaled JJ Redick. The difference was the JJ had great play to talk for him. Paulus was unable to find a groove the entire season, and never looked like he was truly leading this team. The turnovers were much publicized, and Greg was forced to work on another aspect of his game. His shooting late in the season was a great surprise to everyone. He became automatic at times, and really gave the team a boost. NEXT SEASON: Going into next year Paulus will still be the leader of this team. Everyone hopes he can continue his great shooting, but can work on his ball handling skills.

DeMarcus Nelson was an offensive force early for the Blue Devils, and was starting to live up to the hype he came to Duke with. After being plagued by injuries in his first two seasons, his junior year was injury free. And having a healthy Nelson all year, made a big difference for Duke. Late in the season Nelson fell off his game a little bit, and didn’t contribute much to the cause. It showed with Duke losing the last four games. NEXT SEASON: Nelson will be a senior next year, and for his final year at Duke will have to prove to everyone that he came be a great scorer. This year he was good, but next year he needs to be great.

David McClure was the big surprise of the season. After playing few minutes his freshmen year, and being red shirted his sophomore year no one knew what McClure was capable of. We found out this season, that McClure can be the special piece to the championship puzzle. He provided so much spark to this team, it lead them to a record that they probably didn’t deserve. NEXT SEASON: Fortunately McClure will be here at Duke for another two years, and hopefully this season was just a preview of what he can provide. Now he needs to step into a bigger role next year, and provide more offensive output for the Blue Devils.

Jon Scheyer was the most important freshmen this year. At time he looked inconsistent, but was a starter most of the year, and did great things on the college level. Hopefully Scheyer can continue working on his game, and become more of a consistent scorer. Let us not forget that he scored 26 points against UNC, and was named to the ACC All-Freshmen team. NEXT SEASON: Scheyer will be looked on next year to provide a lot of the scoring. He isn’t just a role player, he is THE player.

Gerald Henderson came in as the most athletic player in the freshmen class. We didn’t  get to see this until late in the season, when he started getting more playing time, and started living up to his ability. He is a great player and hopefully will continue to be for Duke. NEXT SEASON: Like Scheyer, Henderson will have to step up and become a go to guy for Duke. He definitely has the ability, but he needs to take the role and run with it.

Lance Thomas looked to be on his way to a great year for Duke. However, an injury and illness slowed him down, and he was never able to get back to what he was doing early on. Lance has tremendous ability and definitely belongs at Duke. He will have more opportunities to prove himself next year. Much has been said about Thomas leaving Duke, but these rumors are exactly that, rumors. Thomas says he is happy at Duke, and I definitely hope so. NEXT SEASON: With McRoberts leaving, Thomas can be a starter next year, and will be the down low guy Duke counts on. I hope he is ready to step up.

Marty Pocius got little playing time last year. He received fewer minutes this year, and wouldn’t even have been mentioned if not for late in the season, when he provided great minutes for the Blue Devils. Marty is a great talent, and will have more opportunities to show that he belongs at Duke. NEXT SEASON: He will probably have to fight for minutes again, but has the talent to do great things. He will have to prove that he can play hard for forty minutes before he sees that sort of playing time.

Josh McRoberts has been looked on as a disappointment since he got here. He was the topped ranked player in his class, but never really showed it. This year, he was supposed to be the go to guy, but was more of a stat sheet filler, than unbelievable scorer. Josh finishes his career at Duke as a borderline bust. Josh was a good player, but never great like he was supposed to be. I wish him the best of luck, but I am ready to move past the McRoberts era.

This season definitely tested are patience with this team. It was sometimes hard to watch them play. They provided us with great moments at times, but in the end disappointed us with their inability to play as a team.

Obviously with the loss of McRoberts it hurts, however this team is getting great talent with the incoming freshmen class. Kyle Singler is an unbelievable player, and some think he is the best all around player in this class. Taylor King can shoot lights out, and has a cockiness about him that will remind you of Redick. Nolan Smith looks like he can be a better version of Nelson, and will be able to take pressure off of Paulus at the point. Duke is still waiting on Patrick Patterson, and with the departure of McRoberts, and Tubby Smith leaving Kentucky (one of his top choices) Duke looks to be in great shape to get him.

I am looking forward to the 07/08 edition of the Duke Blue Devils. With the talent on this team, they definitely should be better. The question is, has much better?