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The more balanced Blue Devils have more than a passing chance at the ACC title

When forward Mason Plumlee considered turning pro as a junior last summer, he thought about what would have then been his last memory as a Blue Devil: losing 75--70 to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the NCAA tournament. "When you envision yourself leaving," Plumlee says, "you don't see yourself going out that way."

So instead of joining his older brother, Miles, as a first-round pick, Mason returned to Durham to make amends. With the departure of Duke's leading scorer, one-and-done point guard Austin Rivers, the 6'10" Plumlee, who averaged nearly a double double and shot 57.2% from the field, should get even more touches. An improved team chemistry will help. Says Plumlee, "We just seem to have more focus as a group."

That cohesiveness starts at the point, where coach Mike Krzyzewski will rely on sophomore Quinn Cook and junior Tyler Thornton. While Thornton is a dogged defender—he led an uncharacteristically poor Duke D with a .91 steal-to-turnover ratio last season—it is Cook, a pass-first point guard, who will make the offense go. "He can get guys some easy shots," says associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski. "He can get into the paint, make plays for other people—things that we didn't necessarily have at a level we needed last year."

Cook averaged just 4.4 points and 1.9 assists as a freshman, but Wojciechowski notes that Cook was still recovering from a right-knee injury that he sustained as a high school senior. "This is the first time he's had 12 months straight of training," Wojciechowski says. "I think you'll see a big improvement from him this year."

Plumlee and the Blue Devils have reason to feel optimistic. "When the guy who has control of the ball is a pass-first player, everybody feels more involved and you know you're going to get your chances," he says.

That should give Plumlee a chance to have a much more satisfying ending to his Duke career.

Tournament Tracker












Projected Starting Five

COACH Mike Krzyzewski (33rd season)

2011--12 RECORD 27--7

ACC 13--3 (2nd)

WHAT'S BACK Minutes: 71.7% Points: 70.1% Rebounds: 67.6%


Returning starter

*High school stats (2010--11)

†High school stats (2011--12)

Telling Number

8 Blue Devils who have won the three-point contest at the McDonald's All-American game, including incoming freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, who has been compared to Duke great J.J. Redick, the ACC's career leader in treys.



QUINN COOK Now fully recovered from a knee injury, the pass-first point guard is poised for a breakout season.