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Allen’s potential still there for Duke to tap

April 20, 2017 GMT

While the 2017-18 ACC basketball personnel picture will stay cloudy for at least the next few weeks, two important puzzle pieces fell into place with recent decisions to return by Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson and Duke’s Grayson Allen.

Both will be 6-foot-5 seniors and among the most experienced big-game players in the nation.

One other thing is relatively certain about the two, as well. When the preseason all-ACC predictions are made by the media on Oct. 25 in Charlotte, the 225-pound Colson is far more likely than Allen to go off as the favorite to be league player of the year.

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Allen started 2016-17 with that distinction by a landslide margin. He received 70 of the 91 votes but that was about the last thing that went his way for a while.

Between injuries, suspensions for tripping opponents and having to play a lot more at the offensive point than anyone could have imagined, the 190-pound Allen wound up starting only 25 games.

After averaging 21.1 points in 35 starts as a sophomore, his scoring average dropped to 14.5. His field-goal percentage slid from 46.1 as a soph to 39.5 and his 3-point percentage went from 41.7 to 36.5. Although Allen occasionally was very effective running the offense, it was obvious the new role affected his production.

Overall, the Blue Devils improved, however. With freshman Derryck Thornton (now at Southern Cal) handling the point some in 2015-16, the team finished 25-11 overall (11-7 ACC) and lost in the tournament quarterfinals to Notre Dame.

Frank Jackson, another freshman, shared the point with Allen last season and struggled a good deal, but the Devils improved down the stretch to finish 28-9 (11-7) and won the league championship by beating Notre Dame.

But it was obvious throughout the season that Duke was at its best when Allen was at or near his best. As much as a villain as he has become to opposing fans, he’s still capable of providing extraordinary leadership and game impact.

With less preseason pressure and an additional year of maturity, it’s completely within Allen’s reach to turn into the league’s most dominant offensive player and the anchor of another national title contender for Mike Krzyzewski.

Losing Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum to the NBA clearly hurt the Blue Devils and they’ll miss Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones.

It’s not even certain which players will join Allen and Jackson in the primary rotation. Freshman Wendell Carter (6-10) and Gary Trent (6-5) will play a lot, and it’s safe to assume rising soph Marques Bolden will be better. Highly rated unsigned prospects Kevin Knox (6-8) and Mohamed Bamba (6-11) still have Duke on their lists.

Allen arrived basically as a bystander in the 2014-15 freshman class with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. After winning the national championship, all three turned pro. Only Allen remains and the final chapter of his college career will be compelling to watch.