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Can Duke thrive with non-standard lineups?
1:32 | College Basketball
Can Duke thrive with non-standard lineups?
Friday November 6th, 2015

This article originally appeared in the the Nov. 9, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here

Matt Jones is a known quantity, if not a dazzling one. The lone returning starter from last year’s national championship team is a dogged, conscientious defender who quickly identifies opponents’ weaknesses and then exposes them. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, Jones can do this against point guards or power forwards, permitting coach Mike Krzyzewski to deploy different defensive looks as needed. “If I take the best player out on each team,” Jones says, “we’ll have a good chance of winning.”

Such dependability is valued in Durham, where roster overhaul is now an annual rite. But the Blue Devils did retain sophomore guard Grayson Allen, a fearless dribble-driver, who’s an ideal fit for an offense predicated on applying pressure from the perimeter. Freshman point guard Derryck Thornton’s quick hands and feet can push the tempo, while center Chase Jeter, 6'10" and an athletic 240 pounds, can pile up putback dunks and weakside blocks. And Brandon Ingram may be the most gifted newcomer of them all. The versatile 6'9" forward, a top five recruit, can create mismatches all over the floor.

Relying on freshmen worked for Duke in the not-so-distant past. But as senior Amile Jefferson cautions, “It’s not about what we did last year.”

Grant Halverson/Getty

X-Factor

Brandon Ingram, 6'9" freshman forward

Ingram, who has a 7'4" wingspan, has the frame, explosiveness, ball-handling skills and shooting range to play four positions.

Coach’s Take

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“With our track record and the stature of our program, it’s going to attract really good talent, and you’re not going to have that talent long. So you adjust. We have a chance to be a much more versatile defensive team. You can switch things a little more, pressure a little more—that’s something we didn’t do as much [last year], as far as extending our defense full-court. Our post guys can be great screeners, rim-runners, all of them can really run the floor. One thing we have not talked about is defending a title. We’re not defending, because we don’t have anywhere close to the same team.” — Jeff Capel, associate head coach

Projected depth chart

SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Grayson Allen SG 16.4 4.0 1.7 119.7 23% 78%
Brandon Ingram G/F 15.6 6.9 1.6 114.7 24% 78%
Derryck Thornton PG 11.9 3.9 4.1 109.4 22% 75%
Amile Jefferson PF 10.2 8.6 1.3 126.2 18% 72%
Matt Jones SG 9.5 3.4 1.3 116.5 17% 69%
Chase Jeter PF/C 7.9 4.8 0.6 109.4 22% 46%
Marshall Plumlee C 5.3 5.0 0.7 122.6 13% 52%

Projected conference race

conference rank team projected Conf. record last year's Conf. record
1 North Carolina 13-5 11-7
2 Duke 13-5 15-3
3 Virginia 13-5 16-2
4 Louisville 10-8 12-6
5 Notre Dame 10-8 14-4
6 Miami (Fla.) 10-8 10-8
7 Florida State 9-9 8-10
8 N.C. State 9-9 10-8
9 Syracuse 9-9 9-9
10 Pittsburgh 9-9 8-10
11 Clemson 7-11 8-10
12 Georgia Tech 7-11 3-15
13 Wake Forest 7-11 5-13
14 Virginia Tech 6-12 2-16
15 Boston College 3-15 4-14

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