Art Chansky is a good writer but it took him years to publicly admit he didn’t like Duke. What else would you expect though? He’s a UNC guy through and through and that’s fine.
He thinks that Duke losing Mark Williams, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore, Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin is going to hurt.
Well, okay, he does have a point. That’s going to hurt.
Thing is though, and Chansky knows this, it’s nothing new. Duke’s been doing it for a while now. One of the more fascinating things about late-era Mike Krzyzewski is that he decided to work with one-and-dones and remained incredibly competitive. How many coaches make changes that big in their 60’s? How many never really lose a step?
The talent Scheyer has recruited will be really good. Dereck Lively and Kyle Filipowski are both big and skilled. Dariq Whitehead looks like a warrior. Mark Mitchell is highly promising. We think Jaden Schutt is likely to be quite underrated and we’ll see where Christian Reeves is.
Toss in Jeremy Roach, Joey Baker and an improved Jaylen Blakes, plus whoever Duke might find in the portal, and Duke should be fine. Just as an aside, there’s a chance that the 7-2 Lively and the very solidly built 6-11 Filipowski may be able to defend Bacot better than Duke did this year.
But there is a kernel of truth in what Chansky says, and he’s saying it because UNC has significant talent returning: Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, RJ Davis and Caleb Love are all back, and you can’t put a price on experience.
However, you also can't really make absolute predictions. For one, while people think Jon Scheyer is promising, no one really knows what to expect and can’t until we see. But that cuts both ways. There’s a pretty good chance that Chansky is underestimating Scheyer and possibly overestimating UNC.
For one, it’s going to be hard to replace Brady Manek and what he brought to the team.
Here’s a look at their roster as it stands now:
- Leaky Black
- Armando Bacot
- RJ Davis
- Caleb Love
- Justin McKoy
- Puff Johnson
- Justin McKoy
- Kerwin Walton
- D’Marco Dunn
- Dontrez Styles
- Jalen Washington
- Seth Trimble
- Tyler Nickel
- Will Shaver
Obviously you’d expect the first four to start but there was a mystery last year: why didn’t Styles and Dunn play? And to an extent, what about Walton? What happened with him?
We would expect Washington to start, but he had a serious knee injury and as we’ve seen at Duke with Quinn Cook and Jeremy Roach, it can take some time to get back to 100 percent.
How will Hubert Davis integrate the freshmen? Will they move ahead of Johnson, Walton, Dunn and Styles? How will that affect the team’s chemistry?
We’re not saying we know, because nobody knows. Hubert Davis knows what he wants to do, but he can’t say for sure that it will work because there are so many variables. For a couple, consider the basic fact of minutes (keeping in mind Davis only went six deep this year if he could help it), how players react to that, and health.
Based on history, you can reasonably expect Duke and UNC to do well next season. But we haven’t seen Scheyer coach more than a couple of games when Mike Krzyzewski was out, and we’ve only seen Davis coach one season. He pulled his team together late, but remember he also spent part of the season saying it wasn’t a very talented group and for a while was very concerned that his team didn’t understand the importance of “energy, effort and toughness.”
Obviously he got them to buy in and recovered brilliantly, playing for the national championship, something that no one but Josh Pastner thought was possible, but for much of his first season, UNC fans, to be charitable, were dismayed.
Which brings us back to Manek.
He made it impossible to double team Bacot because if you did, Manek would light you up from outside, which also meant a big defender had to leave the lane to cover him, which made life a lot easier for Davis, who scored a lot in and around the lane.
Who’s going to offer that bundle of benefits next season?
It’s fun to speculate about things, and we’re sure Chansky enjoyed this past season, but no one knows a thing about what will happen next year.
One last thing: he sneers at Moore when he says this: “...junior Wendell Moore Jr., entered the NBA draft even though he was a solid, second-round pick in the June draft.“
The funny part? That’s exactly why UNC’s players are back: none are projected as better than second round picks and we don’t think Black has shown up in a single mock draft.
Okay, one more last thing. When he says that”...Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry and Jayson Tatum...are all far better in the NBA than they were in Durham.”
Well of course they are: all three had serious injury issues in college. Irving only played a handful of games, Curry couldn't even practice much his senior year and Tatum was significantly slowed by an early injury. Plus all three are years older. That’s really poor logic.
We could go on, but you get the idea. We’ll see on the court.