Much like the Blue Devils, the Panthers are adjusting to life without three prominent seniors. Whereas Duke lost two front court players and a guard in Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry, Drury is replacing two guards and a forward. The Panthers lost their starting backcourt of Alex Hall and Brandon Lockhart as well as starting power forward Teddy Simniok. The trio accounted for more 42 points per game a year ago, which was 52 percent of the Panthers' offense.
Hall finished his career as Drury's No. 3 all-time scorer with 2,200 points, while Lockhart is No. 21 on the list with 1,255 points.
Like Duke, Drury must now move on without last season's core group, and returns a pair of starers who much step up their roles. Scoring guard Drake Patterson, a 6-foot-4 junior started eight games and averaged 5.9 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the perimeter, while the team's starting power forward/center, Ian Carter is also back. Carter averaged 9.2 points per game inside, while pulling down a team high 5.2 rebounds per game. The Panthers will also welcome back last year's sixth man, 6-foot-5 forward Cameron Adams who averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds in just 23 minutes per night.
Sophomore point guard Kameron Bundy will take the keys to team after starting three of 32 games last season and averaging 5.2 points per game. Bundy shot 39 percent from the floor, but only 33 percent from the perimeter.
The Panthers' other returning starter is former Wisconsin-Milwaukee player Lonnie Boga. The 6-foot-3, 200 pound scoring guard joined the team after the first semester a season ago and averaged 4.5 points while shooting 46 percent from the field in 26 appearances.
Drury will also get a spark from a trio of JUCO transfers - 6-foot-5 forward Mike Nwelue, 6-foot-2 combo guard Wendell Pierre, and 6-foot-5 forward Sean Osler.
The Panthers are coached by head coach Steve Hesser, who enters his 10th season with a .722 winning percentage. Drury's head coach has worked at the Duke coaches' camp in the past, and says he has great respect for the Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski:
"Personally, I really admire Duke's program. I've been following them since the 1980s. I have all the books, all the DVDs, I've studied what he has done with his teams," Hesser said. "Obviously it's a tremendous opportunity. Their gesture of having the D-II champion come back, they don't have to do that. It's a great thing for small-school basketball."
Prediction: Duke 87 … Drury 65