Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 10/26/13
For more preseason coverage of the 2013-14 college basketball season, click here. Usually when a team loses its three best players, it signals the beginning of a long, arduous rebuilding process. But then again, not every program can match the prestige, history, and coaching pedigree found at Duke. Year after year, the Blue Devils find a way to reload their roster for another legitimate championship run. This year is no exception. The Blue Devils lost their top two scorers in Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly to the NBA, as well as their most legitimate post presence in six years in Mason Plumlee. Now a program-altering freshman and a key transfer will lead the way. Jabari Parker is the real deal. He is almost unanimously regarded as the best high school prospect aside from Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8" Chicago native is a big-time scorer with an extremely quick first step on the low block, the range to step out on the perimeter, and LeBron James-esque flexibility to handle the ball at point. The hyperbole doesn’t do Parker justice. Parker’s winning pedigree (he won four straight Illinois state titles) fits right in with Duke’s winning culture. He is a program-altering force whose mere presence single-handedly lifts Duke into title contention. Parker is the most visible player entering Durham this season, but he remarkably might not even be the best player on the roster. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and company have so much confidence in Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood that they voted him team captain even though he has never played a single minute with the team. He sat out the entirety of last year per NCAA transfer rules. "Many times [Hood] was our best player," Krzyzewski told The Chronicle. "Now being the best player with a blue shirt and no pressure on you, we'll see now with a white shirt and pressure on you what happens. But I think good things will happen. Best player during scrimmages last year." Hood’s unique blend of size and speed make him an absolute matchup nightmare for opposing defenders. The 6’8" forward can freeze opponents with his reliable jump shot but also boasts both a solid frame to impede low post players and incredible quickness to guard the perimeter. Parker is the most visible player entering Durham this season, but he remarkably might not even be the best player on the roster. Junior Quinn Cook returns at point guard along with sophomore shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon to round out Duke’s sharpshooting backcourt. Cook has gradually improved since Coach K handed him the keys to Duke’s offense late into his freshman season. His levelheaded play and efficient shooting from deep anchors the Duke offense. His 5.2 APG should rise with the multitude of talented guards surrounding him this season. Former center Mason Plumlee provided the Blue Devils with the luxury of a dominant post presence, but his departure leaves the Blue Devils with a glaring hole on the low block for which there is no easy fix. Senior Josh Hairston has never established himself as a dangerous low post threat, often taking a myriad of ill-advised mid-range jumpers. Sophomore Marshall Plumlee, Mason’s younger brother, is still very raw on both ends of the floor. With all the uncertainty in the frontcourt, Krzyzewski has even considered playing smallball with Parker and Hood occupying both forward spots. But 6’9" sophomore Amile Jefferson still seems to be the most logical answer to man the middle for Duke. Jefferson’s limitless motor and long wingspan allow him to outhustle bigger forwards for rebounds. However, the natural power forward needs to add strength to his undersized frame if he is to become a key contributor in the frontcourt. As usual, Duke has scheduled a tough slate of non-conference opponents, and their ACC schedule became even more dangerous with the arrival of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse in the expanded ACC. In what will likely be the most anticipated college basketball game this season, Duke takes on Kansas in Chicago’s Champions Classic this November. Yes, Parker versus Wiggins; the two most hyped college hoops players will battle head-to-head. The Blue Devils face another top ten tilt against Michigan and later dark horse Pac-12 contender UCLA at Madison Square Garden. The two schools on Tobacco Road have historically dominated the ACC, but Syracuse’s arrival could shake things up this year as they provide a legitimate for Duke and North Carolina to contend with. Duke’s two newest additions immediately elevate the team into the championship discussion. The Blue Devils' sharpshooting wings will lead the offensive charge, but they must iron out their muddled frontcourt situation if they hope to deliver Durham another national title.

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

NFL Media executive deletes Twitter account amid scandal

Udonis Haslem has funny reaction to Wayne Ellington’s hot shooting streak

Anthony Davis surprises family with new car, gifts

Ezekiel Elliott makes a daring bet with Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson

Pacers take subtle jab at Paul George with introduction video

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Paul George booed by Pacers fans like crazy

Angels reportedly acquire Ian Kinsler from Tigers

Warren Sapp addresses sexual harassment allegations, claims he’s ‘always the bad guy’

49ers player: Jimmy Garoppolo has become leader of team

Thunder already loooking to trade Paul George?

Report: 'More than five teams interested' in Orioles' Manny Machado

The 'Is there anything Brown can't do for you?' quiz

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

Newcomers help Predators get back to 'Smashville' hockey

How Buddy Hield became the NBA's newest sniper

NFL MVP Watch: Antonio Brown enters suddenly wide-open race

The 'To the Victor, go the spoils' quiz

Matt Barnes and the looming end of the NBA's enforcers

25 players to watch in the pre-Christmas bowls

The naughty and nice athletes list for 2017

NFL free agent signings who have paid off the most in 2017

Six NBA coaches who could be on the hot seat

The best individual performance from every bowl all time

Blue Devils News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Boogie, Z-Bo reach out and punch someone

The 'Is there anything Brown can't do for you?' quiz

Newcomers help Predators get back to 'Smashville' hockey

How Buddy Hield became the NBA's newest sniper

NFL MVP Watch: Antonio Brown enters suddenly wide-open race

The 'To the Victor, go the spoils' quiz

25 players to watch in the pre-Christmas bowls

The 'Josh Gordon is back and the NFL will have to deal with it!' quiz

The best individual performance from every bowl all time

NFL Week 14 injury report

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker