There is always something that people look forward to, whether it is summer, a birthday, or Christmas. In about 23 days, it will be Christmas for Duke fans as Countdown 2 Craziness kicks off as the unofficial start to the season. In spirit of the excitement that comes with Countdown, here are 5 things that every Duke basketball fan should look forward in 2013-14 campaign:
1. The Competition: One thing that is always exciting is once the schedule comes out, we all get to see what non-conference teams Duke will play. Boy, are we going to be in for a treat this season. The first contest will be when Duke travels to Chicago, Jabari Parker’s hometown, to face Kansas Much has changed since these 2 last played. Duke doesn’t have Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, or Ryan Kelly and Kansas is without key pieces as Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey departed for the NBA. This does affect both teams, but both schools have brought in a tremendous recruiting class that includes the marquee matchup of Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins, the projected top 2 picks of the 2014 draft. Then, Duke plays in the Preseason NIT Tournament, which includes teams like Rutgers, Alabama, and a very tough Arizona Wildcat team who added a big recruit by the name of Aaron Gordon. Duke also faces Michigan in Durham, which should be a very intriguing game to watch, as well as when Duke travels to The Garden to face UCLA. Duke always has a tough non-conference schedule, but this one should be very fun to watch.
2. Jabari Parker: We all know the story of Jabari Parker. We know how he was ranked the #1 overall recruit until Andrew Wiggins decided to go to college this year instead of next. We know the type of player he is, gritty, excellent defender as well as having a post up game to go along with his 3-point ability. We know that he is looked at, already, as a big-time star. It doesn’t matter what we’ve heard, everyone and I mean everyone should be excited for college basketball season just so that we can watch this 18 year old play in Duke blue. He is a very humble young man and wants to show us what he can do on the court. All eyes will be on him, not just in the first game, but every one this season. I believe I can speak for all Duke fans when I make this statement: I just can’t wait to see this 6’8” forward play.
3. Will the Pieces Fall In Place: I know what you are thinking, “How does this fit into something to look forward to?” Just imagine this: Duke has an incredible amount of depth at the small forward position. They have Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Alex Murphy, and Semi Ojeleye. We know that not everybody can play every minute, so just imagine if Coach K finds a rotation that works for the team. Imagine having Cook, Sulaimon, Hood, Parker, and Plumlee all playing at once with solid back ups to come in and play key minutes off the bench. If the rotation becomes successful, not just for the small forwards, but for everyone, there is no doubt that Duke has the chance to do something special this season. If Thornton can play tight defense and contribute as a playmaker to back up Quinn Cook, then there is another bonus. Also lets say that Thornton isn’t doing well, Matt Jones would have to step up and provide for the team as a Freshman guard coming off the bench. If Hairston can come off the bench and get his jumper to fall while still playing tough, tenacious defense, he can be a valuable asset to the Blue Devils. There is so much depth to work with in so many spots that if any sort of rotation clicks, something special could happen this year.
4. Marshall Plumlee: Although he is looked at as being Duke’s biggest question mark, I feel it can be an exciting year for the redshirt sophomore. At times last season, in his limited playing time, Plumlee seemed to look lost or that the speed of the game was too much for him. A lot has changed over the summer. Marshall has gained about 35 pounds in an attempt to bulk up for the low-post defense and offense he will play this season. Lets say Plumlee plays decent, working the jump hook his brother Mason was known for at Duke, and he becomes somewhat of a presence on the defensive end, he could solve a lot of Duke’s problems. This is the one spot they don’t have depth in, he is the only true center standing at 7’0” tall and weighing in at 260 lbs. He needs to be the guy Coach Krzyzewski can rely on, or else the Blue Devils will have a major dilemma with nobody taller then 6’9” behind him. Although he is the biggest question on the team so far, I feel that with the work he has done to his body this summer and one could presume the work he has done on his game, that Plumlee could be a good player who will be the X-factor in almost every game.
5. The Crazies: What better way to end this then with mentioning the best fans in the world. There is nothing like the way Cameron shakes after a big shot or how long the game feels for an opponent who has to hear the Crazies screaming all game. They never sit down, they never stop cheering, and they never stop supporting Duke basketball. I am interested to hear what new chants they have come up with in their offseason. We often hear about crowds being a team’s 6th man, but nothing compares to the Cameron Crazies. They are the most electric fans and give the Blue Devils the best home-court advantage in college sports. There is nothing better then seeing them get into the head of an opposing player trying to inbound the ball or how dead-silent it gets when Duke steps up to take a free-throw. If hearing the Crazies doesn’t get you excited for Duke basketball, then I don’t know what does.