Will the Duke Blue Devils win the national title this season?

Duke basketball is back, and there is an excitement surrounding the upcoming season that hasn't been there since the J.J. Redick-Shelden Williams days - the realistic opportunity and expectation of the Blue Devils winning a national title (I do realize Duke cut down the nets in 2010, but no one really expected them to win that year).

All the hype surrounding the outstanding freshmen class in college basketball has the 2013-14 season shaping up to be one of the best and most exciting in recent memory, with Coach K's squad figuring to be right in the thick of things.

This is what Duke's starting lineup will look like:

PG: Quinn Cook

SG: Rasheed Sulaimon/Matt Jones

SF: Rodney Hood

PF: Jabari Parker

C: Marshall Plumlee/Josh Hairston/Amile Jefferson

Coach K might not go with this lineup right off the bat, but it's the lineup he'll have in at crunch time and will be the starting five we'll see by the time the NCAA Tournament comes around.

Cook is a distributor with a knack for getting in the lane, and will be flanked by the team's two best shooters with legitimate size for their position in Sulaimon and Hood.  Coach K loves freshman Matt Jones so much that he has refrained all offseason from naming Sulaimon a starter, so expect to see Jones get some major minutes.

I know Parker is a natural small forward and will play the 3 at the next level, but he can serve as one of the nation's premier stretch 4's and create major mismatch problems at that position at the college level.  His decision to come to Durham pushed the Devils into serious championship contention and he could quite possibly be the best freshman to ever wear a Duke jersey.

The center spot is up for grabs and will be played by which player of the three listed above are have the hottest hand.

Who does that leave on the bench unit?

PG: Tyler Thornton

SG: Andre Dawkins/Matt Jones

SF: Semi Ojeleye

PF: Plumlee/Hairston/Jefferson

C: Plumlee/Hairston/Jefferson

The Devils can go 11 deep with legitimate major-D1 players, something few other squads in the country can say.  With the ability to go small or play big (there is a lineup where Rodney Hood could run point and be the smallest player on the court at 6-7), there are so many lineup options Coach K can play with.  Expect to see playing time and rotations vary based on Duke's opponent.

Duke is starting the year ranked 4th nationally, but the only teams ranked ahead of them that can give them major problems is Kentucky and Louisville, to a lesser extent.  Michigan State doesn't have the athletes to compete with Duke and are vastly overrated in my opinion.  Outside of Gary Harris, their roster doesn't have any players with legitimate NBA potential.

Tuesday's matchup against No. 5 Kansas is going to very telling as to whether Duke is in that top class of teams with the Wildcats and Cardinals, or if they fall into the next tier of hopefuls.  The Jayhawks have nowhere near the top-to-bottom talent the Blue Devils boast, but have as formidable starting lineup as anyone in the country led by super-frosh Andrew Wiggins.

The new look ACC is going to be fun with the additions of Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame, but the Blue Devils will still be the favorites in every game they play.  The must-see conference matchup of the year will be against the Orange in the Carrier Dome.  Syracuse is moving the basketball court from the side to the middle of the football field for the game, giving it an Elite-8-type atmosphere.  Moving the court would inherently shatter the NCAA on-campus attendance record of 35,012 which Syracuse set this past year against Georgetown.

Duke's season gets underway tonight against Davidson at 7:00 of ESPNU, and fans should expect to see Coach K's best team since the 2001 championship squad.

Will they win the national championship?

I'd say no, solely because I think something historic will be happening in Lexington this year - but I do expect Duke to make the title game.

However, the Blue Devils have the experience, size, depth, talent, defense, and guard play (all the components national champions usually have) necessary to win the whole thing.

Obviously everything has to play out, but Duke fans should be thinking Final Four or bust this season.

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