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No. 1 Blue Devils tip off season Friday against Elon

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Games on back-to-back nights will open the 2017-18 basketball season for Duke, as the No. 1 team in the country hosts Elon on Friday night at 7 and then Utah Valley on Saturday at 7 p.m. 

The 24-hour break between the season’s first two games is something head coach Mike Krzyzewski has done each year since 2015, when it led to a national title. This will be the first season opener played for all but four guys on the roster — Grayson Allen, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White and Justin Robinson. Marques Bolden the first game of the 2016-17 season with a lower leg injury and the rest of the roster are true freshmen. With such a quick turnaround between games, look for Coach K to go deeper in his bench than usual.

SUSPENSIONS BEHIND THEM?

Duke was missing its starting point guard Trevon Duval, as well as reserves Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire during the team’s second and final exhibition game last Saturday afternoon. All three players were held out for academic reasons. 

While there’s clearly hope it’s an isolated incident, it is an indication of just how little leadership there is on the roster. Allen, the team’s only senior, may need some help corralling this young, but talented team as the year goes on, but where that help will come from is anybody’s guess.

EXPECTATIONS AND PREDICTIONS

Being the No. 1 team in the country, per The Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll, as well as the odds-on favorite to win it all according to Las Vegas books, the expectations are not going to wait for the youth on the team to grow up. 

Duke is talented at every position, has one of the best college players in the country in Allen and one of the top projected NBA draft picks in freshman Marvin Bagley. But as everyone saw last year, all the talent in the world doesn’t mean anything if the collection of skilled players doesn’t come together as a team. After going through what it did last season, the Blue Devils coaching staff will be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Unless Coach K comes down with another back injury or Allen’s temper flares up and he gets suspended for a long period of time, the combination of size and skill on Duke’s roster will make it hard for teams with lesser talent to hang with them. While not making any promises for what will happen when March Madness rolls around, there is a much greater margin for error with this team than in the two years past.

TWO FIVE-STAR RECRUITS SIGN

Two new pieces of the future of Duke basketball were officially inked Wednesday when five-star point guard Tre Jones and five-star small forward Cameron Reddish signed their National Letters of Intent at ceremonies in front of their high school classmates. 

The two five-star signees are tied for the most in the country with rival North Carolina, although Duke is looking to add one more before the weekend arrives.

The No. 1-ranked player, R.J. Barrett of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, is all set to announce his college decision Friday at 6 p.m. on Canadian Sports Channel TSN. All signs point to Duke being the pick for Barrett, as the Blue Devils hold a commanding lead in the 247Sports Crystal Ball, but nothing’s official until the signature hits the paper.

DUKE VS. ARMY ON VETERAN’S DAY

Needing a win badly, the Blue Devils head off to take on Army at West Point on Veteran’s Day in what will surely be an emotional scene for the Cadets. 

After an open week and heading into two games against triple-option teams, Duke needs to find two wins in its last three games to guarantee a bowl game appearance. And while Vegas has head coach David Cutcliffe’s group pegged as a three-point favorite, SBNation’s S&P+ advanced statistics are pointing to an Army win. 

The Black Knights beat Air Force last weekend without completing a forward pass, which is basically what Duke’s offense is now without the successful running game.

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.

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