With Duke University’s legendary Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski announcing his retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 college basketball season, Coach K’s farewell season is underway. But can Coach K ride off into the sunset with a storybook ending and win a national championship?
ESPN college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis believes that Duke can win it all, and told New York Sports Day why before the first Duke game of the season against Kentucky.
“I look first first and see, as a former big, if you have rim protection,” Ellis said. “Mark Williams, I don’t know if there are many bigs that finished the season the way he did. Nearly 18 points a game, 7 rebounds, he’s an active runner, willing shot blocker, moves so well laterally, you can put him in ball screens. In late clock situations, he can switch out for a couple of seconds on a smaller guard.”
Ellis then discussed Duke one-and-done stud Paolo Banchero, who is a certain lottery pick and could possibly be the first player selected in the 2022 NBA Draft.
“6’10”, 240lbs, can stick it from three, and he can rip it off the backboard on the defensive end and push it up the floor and try to get to the rim himself or make a play,” Ellis said of the explosiveness of Banchero.
Banchero didn’t disappoint against Kentucky, with 22 points and 7 rebounds.
Coach K talked about his performance versus Kentucky.
“He’s a special player and you can coach him hard,” he said. “But he’s going to keep getting better. He’s the real deal. There’s no question about it.”
He also earned praise from Kentucky Men’s Basketball Head Coach John Calipari, who actually tried, and failed to land him as a Wildcat.
“He’s really good,” Calipari stated. “You almost can’t, we had too much respect for him.
Ellis predicted that Duke fans would know the name Trevor Keels by the end of the night and he didn’t disappoint, leading the team with 25 points against Kentucky. Ellis called Keels a big, physical guard that can shoot from three-point range.
Finally, Ellis talked about how it all comes together for Duke.
“They’re going to be a real good defensive team,” Ellis proclaimed of Duke. “So I feel like they have shotmakers this year, they have guys that can rebound the basketball, they have several playmakers to compliment their defense.”
College basketball writer and contributor to ESPN’s The Undefeated also Jamal Murphy discussed the potential of Duke this season with New York Sports Day.
“Duke can definitely win it all this season,” Murphy said. “They have talent comparable to what they had in 2015 when they won it all and 2019 when they reached the Regional Finals, and with this being Coach K’s final season you have to think the Basketball Gods are looking down on him favorably.”
Despite Duke not making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over two decades last season, Krzyzewski didn’t forget how to coach. Quite the opposite. He actually didn’t have the normal amount of time to actually coach the team last season because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the lack of consistency of the Duke team last season was evidence of that.
Coach K, as well as the team, are motivated to not only rebound from last season’s disappointing performance, but also to send him into retirement with an NCAA championship trophy.
While it is almost impossible to make an accurate prediction on who will win the NCAA Tournament in November, if Duke can play to their talent level, look out,because they will definitely have a sizable chance to win it all.