A reduced level of curiosity greets the start of the season for No. 2 Duke and second-year coach Jon Scheyer.
The Blue Devils are bound to attract plenty of attention right away nonetheless.
Duke takes on Dartmouth in the season opener under second-year coach Jon Scheyer on Monday at Durham, N.C.
“The team that we were by the end of the year, that’s what I’m most proud of,” Scheyer said of his first season piloting Duke. “And the thing that I’ve learned the most is how to keep the group together.”
Scheyer took the helm at Duke following the retirement of all-time NCAA wins leader Mike Krzyzewski.
That storyline was the backdrop for Scheyer’s first season, which resulted in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship and a 27-9 overall record. He recently accepted a contract extension that will go to near the end of the decade, and a week later landed a commitment from 2024 No. 1 recruit Cooper Flagg. The Maine native joins three other top-50 recruits to cement the Blue Devils’ No. 1 class.
All of these are factors contributing to Scheyer’s ownership in the program that for years — and obvious reasons — was synonymous with Krzyzewski.
“Now going into this year, we can tell he has a lot more confidence,” sophomore forward Kyle Filipowski said. “He knows what to do right away. He’s just taking charge with that.”
Duke has been dubbed ACC preseason favorites. Filipowski was named ACC preseason Player of the Year.
“I’m definitely trying to teach the freshmen some things (about) expectations and preparation to come in this year and to step up to have more of a dominant effect on my teammates as well,” Filipowski said.
Dartmouth went 10-18 overall with a 6-8 Ivy League record last season. Seven returning players led the Big Green in scoring in at least one game last season.
Captains Robert McRae III and Romeo Myrthil give Dartmouth experience.
“I am confident their understanding of the importance of communication and relationship-building will help make our team the toughest and most together as we strive toward excellence, on and off the court,” Dartmouth coach David McLaughlin said. “They understand the importance of being selfless, and how accountability is foundational for our team’s individual and collective growth.”
The Big Green will encounter a Duke team that will have some different defensive elements. Center Dereck Lively has moved on to the NBA after one college season.
“We have to do it a different way,” Scheyer said. “It’s not going to be the same exact way, but it still comes down to your mentality, the toughness guarding the ball, the awareness, five guys moving together as the ball moves and having collective effort, protecting the paint and gaining rebounding and pushing from there.”
Duke has unusual experience compared to its teams during the past dozen years. Guards Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor and forward Mark Mitchell give the Blue Devils a good foundation, while freshmen Jared McCain and Caleb Foster are expected to have significant impacts.
“There’s a comfort there, which is really good,” Scheyer said. “But comfort can make you soft. And so for us, we’ve doubled down on the work we’ve put in every single day and not assuming anything.”
Duke has won 23 consecutive season openers. This will be the Blue Devils’ first matchup with Dartmouth, though Duke is 56-9 all-time vs. Ivy League members.
Dartmouth will face five non-conference opponents that racked up 20 or more wins last season. The Big Green were picked seventh in the Ivy League preseason poll.