NCAA Championship Keys for Top Teams - Part 2
You can read Part 1 here – Louisville, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State
Duke – The Blue Devils are coming off a 30-win season and another trip to at least the Elite 8 (the 13th under Coach Mike Krzyzewski), but they will need to replace 3 starters who were also their 3 leading scorers last season. Still, there is plenty of optimism in Durham, and seeing Duke make another deep tourney run is not out of the question. It starts with the returning backcourt of Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon. Cook has had his growing pains running the point for Duke, but his confidence continued to grow through last season. Sulaimon gave the Blue Devils a perimeter threat who was also able to explode to the basket. Rodney Hood sat out last season after transferring from Mississippi State and will bring an athletic wing who can create scoring opportunities. Andre Dawkins, another top perimeter shooter, returns after a year off to deal with personal issues, and freshmen Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye will provide some scoring pop off the bench. The key for Duke will be the development of the frontcourt, especially start freshman recruit Jabari Parker. Parker is already one of the more-skilled elite freshmen in the country, but he will need to adjust to a more physical game in the ACC. Also, the Blue Devils will need strong minutes from Marshall Plumlee, the lone player over 6’9 on the team.
Arizona – Sean Miller’s Wildcats are another team among this group dealing with significant losses, but a top-level recruiting class, developing young talent, and a key transfer, should have them among the mix come the end of March. Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson highlight the recruiting class, and both should play significant parts in the Arizona season. Gordon is a physical gem, able to attack the basket and finish in some spectacular ways. Hollis-Jefferson is a smooth wing who is able to get to the rim and is an excellent transition scorer. The returning talent is led by 2 big men, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski. Both are still raw on both ends of the floor, but the physical abilities are there. Shooting guard Nick Johnson is the Wildcats’ best long-range threat, but is also very athletic and will look to get to the basket off the dribble. The key to this season for Arizona will be the play of Duquesne transfer, point guard TJ McConnell. For a program dubbed “Point Guard U” for many years, the position has been a trouble spot recently for the Wildcats, but McConnell gives them a leader who can distribute the ball well, knock down open jumpers and play perimeter defense. If he sets the tone on both ends for Arizona, they have Final Four potential.