Durham, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils will open their 2013-14 season on Friday with a familiar opponent, as they welcome the Davidson Wildcats to Durham for a showdown at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Mike Krzyzewski did it again last year. The Blue Devils won 30 games a year ago, finished second in the ACC (14-4) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight. Despite reaching 30 wins and a deep run in the postseason, few around Durham view last season as a huge success. Despite losses to that talented roster, an influx of talent coupled with a solid core, has the Blue Devil faithful thinking of championships both in the ACC and beyond.
Last season saw Bob McKillop lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time overall and second year in a row, as they coasted to a Southern Conference Tournament title. Davidson came up just short of an upset of the third-seeded Marquette in the second round of the Big Dance, falling 59-58 to the Golden Eagles in a defensive battle.
Duke has several long win streaks on the line in this one. The Blue Devils have won 101 non-conference games at home (longest streak in the nation) with the last loss coming to St. John's in 2000. The team also boasts a lopsided 89-17 advantage in the all-time series with Davidson, including wins in each of the last 24 meetings. The Wildcats' last victory over Duke came in 1981.
The Wildcats have dominated play in the SoCon over the past two seasons with a 33-3 league record. Maintaining that level of success won't be easy, as the team has lost last year's SoCon Player of the Year, Jake Cohen, and a couple of other high-profile contributors. The cupboard isn't completely bare though, as McKillop still has a pair of proven assets in De'Mon Brooks (13.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Chris Czerapowicz (9.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg). Junior guard Tyler Kalinoski (7.1 ppg) should help along the perimeter as he transitions from a reserve last year to a starter. Miami-Ohio transfer Brian Sullivan (5-11, 175) is a key addition to the backcourt after averaging double figures in his rookie season with the RedHawks.
Despite losing serious talent (Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly), this year's Duke squad could be even better. The backcourt is stocked with point guard Quinn Cook and off-guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Andre Dawkins, who returns after a year off, provides depth along with defensive specialist Tyler Thornton. The frontcourt isn't as deep in terms of proven commodities. Still, there is a great deal of anticipation with the arrivals of Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood (6-8, 215) and freshman phenom Jabari Parker (6-8, 235), who was regarded as the second-best prospect behind Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. The one weakness on this team may come in the low post, where Duke lacks a game-changing big man. Marshall Plumlee will follow in the footsteps of his productive brothers, but the seven-footer is extremely raw. Amile Jefferson (6-9) is an athletic player at both ends of the court and should garner significant minutes as well.