Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elliot Williams Leaves Duke

This is a disaster for Duke. There were a lot of different reasons for why Duke went on a run late in last season, but to me nothing meant more than the move of Elliot Williams into the starting lineup. He gave Duke another player who could create, and who had great athleticism. After not playing more than 15 minutes in an ACC game all season, Williams played 30+ minutes in each of their last six ACC games. He averaged 11 points in those games, and the team went 5-1 with that one loss being an exciting 8 point loss in UNC's home finale.

With Gerald Henderson gone, Williams was going to be the only truly athletic wing player. Duke is now left with a very thin team, featuring a mediocre back court of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, with no recruits incoming. Martynas Pocius is gone, and Seth Curry has to sit out next year as a transfer. As far as I can tell, the only guard left is fifth year senior Jordan Davidson, a walk-on. There's no way that Davidson will play significant minutes, and with no good recruits left out there, it seems as if Kyle Singler is going to have to play some shooting guard. That's the only way this will work.

If Singler has to play as a shooting guard, then that just puts even more pressure on Duke's big men to finally take a step forward. Brian Zoubek is going to have to get quicker so that he can play more time. Lance Thomas is going to have to get better, and Mason Plumlee is going to have to take the leap in his second season. I don't think Duke has a lot of faith in Olek Czyz ever becoming very good, which means that any other production will have to come from their recruiting class: Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Both players are 6'10" or so, and I'd give Mason Plumlee a better shot at being a quality player as a freshman.

Certainly we now have to revise our expectations for the 2009-10 ACC season. There won't be a team of the quality of the 2008-09 Tar Heels in the ACC next season, but I still don't see any way that Duke makes a serious run at the conference title now. I think we're down to a three team race, between North Carolina, Maryland and Clemson. I think I'd even move Georgia Tech ahead of Duke into fourth place in the ACC. It's going to be a long year in Durham.

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