November 12, 2015

(AP) - Don't call fifth-ranked Duke a defending national champion.

For many of these current Blue Devils, there's nothing to defend - because they had nothing to do with the program's most recent title.

Their goal - as it always is at Mike Krzyzewski's perennial powerhouse program - is to hang a banner of their own.

Heading into Friday night's opener against Siena, Krzyzewski expects ''there will be a little bit more of a learning curve with regard to this group'' than last year, when freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones played with the poise of veterans from the moment the season began.

Expectations are never low at Duke, which six months ago finished 35-4 to win the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time since 1991.

Since then, half the scholarship players on that team and its only four double-figure scorers - those three one-and-done freshmen plus senior Quinn Cook - have moved on.

The Blue Devils will have a new look but the same mission - to mesh a talented crew of freshmen with a few experienced returnees quickly and effectively enough to remain near the top of the ACC.

Last year's freshmen arrived with ready-made relationships after playing together at various levels.

These newcomers - led by swingman Brandon Ingram, big man Chase Jeter and guards Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard - don't quite have that familiarity yet.

''Our freshmen are talented ... and for the guys coming back, they have to adjust to a different level of expectation,'' Krzyzewski said. ''They have to play more good minutes in a game, and then they have to play game after game well. ... You've got to do it all the time.''

Krzyzewski expects these Blue Devils to generate most of their scoring from the perimeter - a pretty stark contrast to last year's team, which revolved around the 6-foot-11 Okafor in the paint. Krzyzewski says this team will be more ''opportunistic'' in the low post, sticking back offensive rebounds.

''This team's strength is its perimeter scoring,'' he said.

Duke is counting on Grayson Allen to pick up where he left off in April. After barely playing at times, Allen blossomed into the hero of the Final Four, scoring 16 points and coming up with the biggest hustle play of the title-clinching win over Wisconsin. He says there's ''definitely a change in mentality'' that comes with his added confidence.

Krzyzewski expects Ingram to be ''all over - he's that good of a player,'' and could see time on the wing and inside. The 6-9 Kinston product is the first Associated Press men's high school player of the year to choose Duke since Shavlik Randolph in 2002, and is one of two players in the history of the state high school association to win four state titles. With a wingspan that's 7-foot-3, Ingram has ''that versatility, that flexibility (that) puts him in a position to be in almost any lineup," according to Krzyzewski.

The Blue Devils aren't the preseason favorites in the ACC - that belongs to archrival North Carolina - but could make a run at a Final Four return if these freshmen mesh together as quickly and effectively as last year's group did.

This will be Duke's first meeting with Siena, which was picked to finish fifth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference after going 11-20 last season.

Junior Marquis Wright returns to the Saints after leading the MAAC with 5.1 assists per game and 6-8 forward Brett Bisping is expected to be the team's leader in the paint. He averaged 8.7 points in six games last season before suffering a season-ending toe injury.

"To have Brett Bisping back means the world to us," third-year coach Jimmy Patsos told the school's official website. "Brett is the heart and soul of our team. I think he does a tremendous amount of leading for us. He gives you such an edge on the court in practice."

Siena is trying to avoid a ninth loss in 12 openers while Duke is seeking a 34th consecutive season-opening home victory. The Blue Devils, who host Bryant on Saturday as part of the 2K Classic, have won an NCAA-best 116 straight nonconference home games.

The Saints haven't defeated a ranked team on the road since 1976 and next visit No. 17 Wisconsin on Sunday, becoming the first school ever to open a season against the defending national champion and the runner-up.

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