It has been nearly a week since Amile Jefferson decided to head down to Durham, NC to play his college basketball, and Duke Fans (including myself) were ecstatic about the news. Now I’ve decided to look into my Duke/ACC crystal ball and make some BOLD predictions about this season. I would like to preface this by saying a lot of these predictions are based on past statistics, and my “gut” feeling.Odds are, out of my six predictions (three for this year’s Duke team; three for the ACC) one may come true, but nonetheless, it was enjoyable gathering statistics and making some predictions for the season.
First, let’s start with the predictions for Duke.
Prediction number one: Mason Plumlee will be a 1st Team All-American. Returning co-captain senior and big man, Mason, is primed to have a huge season for the Blue Devils. He is coming off a season where he nearly averaged a double-double (11.1 & 9.2), with limited looks and touches, game in and game out during the season (in my opinion a major reason is because of our reliance on our guards). If this year’s team looks to him more in the post and he can become more aggressive on the offensive side, then I see no reason why Mason can’t average 18 points, and 11 rebounds. Lastly, this past year, many notable big men made the leap to the NBA, players such as: Jared Sullinger, Anthony Davis, Tyler Zeller and Thomas Robinson (just to name a few). When looking at the crop of big men coming up this year, it is quite obvious, big-time, back-to-the-basket college players are slim pickings. I can only name a handful of guys this season (Nerlens Noel, C.J. Leslie, Jeff Withey, Joshua Smith) that would threaten Mason’s accolade of 1st Team All-American.
Prediction number two (Duke Fans, you will not enjoy hearing this one): Duke will lose in the 2nd round (now called the 3rd round) of the NCAA Tournament. Before you start exiting out of this article, allow me to explain this troubling prediction I have made. During Coach K’s reign at Duke University, he has only lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament three times, including this past year’s loss to the now well known, Lehigh Mountain Hawks The previous two first round losses came during the 1996 and 2007 tournaments. The post-season following the previous two, first round losses led to Duke losing in the 2nd round both times (once again, now called the 3rd round). Duke lost in 1997 to Providence, and in 2008, the Blue Devils fell in the round of 32 to West Virginia. Following this trend, and I know it’s not much of a trend, but going by the stats, sorry to say this Blue Devil fans, this year’s squad won’t make it past the first weekend.
Final Duke prediction: I contemplated putting prediction number two as the last prediction, but I always like to hear the good news last, and yes, there is some good news fans! This year’s team will win the ACC Tournament. The ACC Tournament will be played at the Greensboro Coliseum, in Greensboro, NC. I mention this because the past six times Greensboro Coliseum has hosted the ACC tourney, Duke has either won or was runner-up. To be exact, Duke has won four out of the past six times in Greensboro and they are currently on a three consecutive ACC tourney winning streak.
Now onto a broader prospective, let’s take a look at the ACC.
Prediction number one: (I know this isn’t very bold or new news, but NC State is back). I am willing to go the next step and say NC State will win the ACC regular season by at least three games. This year’s team is filled with talent at every position. The recruiting class coming in is ranked number nine by ESPN expert recruiters (welcome to Raleigh Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren), and the team returns its top four scorers (which include two juniors- C.J. Leslie & Lorenzo Brown, and two seniors- Scott Wood & Richard Howell). Mark Gottfried is a heck of a coach, who is doing things at NC State that many thought weren’t going to be done for a few years (example-nearly making the Elite Eight). The biggest question I have for them right now is there depth. The Wolfpack lost three players this off-season due to transfers to other schools. Needless to say, the ACC will be down once again, and things are looking up for NC State.
Prediction number two: (Duke Fans, you will LOVE this prediction). UNC will not make the NCAA Tournament this year. I know, typical mind set of a Duke fan, but I honestly put my hatred aside of UNC and decided to check out previous stats. This past year’s exodus of UNC players (Barnes, Zeller, Henson and Marshall) reminded me of the past when UNC lost a ton of talent. I decided to check how the following year was for those UNC squads. Let’s go back at the end of the 04-05 season, where 93 percent of UNC’s scorers left for the NBA. Players such as; Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad, McCants, and the list goes on. The following year, that UNC squad went 23-8 and lost in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tourney, to Cinderella, George Mason. In 2009, after Roy Williams second National Championship at UNC, the Tar Heel blue faithful saw another slew of talent head to the NBA. The infamous Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green comprised of 74 percent of that year’s team scoring. The following year, in 2010, UNC went 20-17 and did not make the NCAA tourney. This past off-season UNC lost over 68 percent of its scoring, but scoring wasn’t the biggest loss for this past year’s team. They lost their floor general in Marshall, which is a difficult position to replace. Now, I know the Tar Heels have a stellar recruiting class coming in, but I don’t see a “go-to-guy” this year and I don’t see much defense. Sorry baby blue, no tourney for you!
Final Prediction: The mediocrity of the ACC will still be existent this season. I see the ACC sending at the most, five teams to the tournament, but if I had to put my money on it, I’d say the ACC will receive four bids (Duke, NC State, Virginia and FSU). As a whole, the ACC had a great recruiting year. According to ESPN recruiting, the ACC has five teams in the top 25 recruiting classes. But most of the teams in the ACC are young and inexperienced, which aren’t the best combinations in fighting for a NCAA tourney bid. I do believe, with the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the coming years, and the talent growing in the ACC, that the ACC will once again be back to its former prominence!