After winning the NCAA National Championship in 2015, and making it to the Sweet 16 in 2016, Duke came into the 2016-2017 season spearheading all of the NCAA as the front runner to become national champions yet again.
Head Coach Mike Kryzewski heads in to the season with “One of the best recruiting classes in school history,” according to CBS Sports.
In the preseason rankings, Duke basketball was ranked at number one. This was above every college basketball team in the nation. This ranking however was based on a full, healthy Duke basketball team.
The problem is, Duke has three freshmen sidelined with injuries with two of them being in the top ten incoming freshmen in the nation, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum.
The Blue Devils have started the season with an 8-1 record with the only loss suffered to number four Kansas by only two points. With the loss to Kansas, Duke has dropped to a ranking of number five.
This season is shaping up to be one of the best Duke seasons in more than a decade if everybody becomes healthy.
“’We know how good we are – we’re still improving, and we know when we incorporate these guys back in, we’re going to be that much better, but right now we’re very confident with what we have. We’re not playing a waiting game where we’re waiting for those guys to get back. We’re going full speed and approaching every game that way, and I think the group that we have has done a great job fighting with a shorter bench, just being tough and really playing a lot of minutes,’” said Duke junior guard Gayson Allen, summing up Duke’s situation in an interview.
Injuries are not only holding back the freshmen. Junior guard Grayson Allen is also suffering from a smaller injury that is preventing him from practicing to be at 100 percent during the game.
“’Grayson does not practice one second, so when he’s out on that court, it’s a gutty performance…That kid has played unbelievably, and he’s limping,’” said Coach K in a usatoday.com article.
Duke thus far has been an exciting team to watch. With the addition of the three freshmen who are currently injured and the full recovery of Grayson Allen, this team will jump back to the number one spot they earned in the preseason.