How Good Would Duke Be This Year if Kyrie Irving Hadn't Left for the NBA?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils moves the ball while taking on the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Even if you aren't a Duke fan, can you imagine how good the Blue Devils would be if Kyrie Irving hadn't left Durham for the NBA?

During the eleven games that he played for Coach K, Irving displayed cat-like quickness and a killer jump shot that was almost unstoppable.

Before he was hurt in early December, the 6'3" point guard dominated nearly every collegiate game he played.

In the first eight games of 2010-11 season, Irving was not only the best player on a team that also featured veteran stars Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, he may have been the best player in college basketball.

After being hurt and sitting out the rest of the regular season, Irving rejoined the Blue Devils and picked up where he left off.

During three games in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Irving scored 17.7 ppg on 52 percent FG shooting (including 50 percent from beyond the arc) and 91 percent from the line.

This year, in his first NBA season, Irving has continued his assault on anyone who has tried to get in his way. 

He is a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 18.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 5.1 apg for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He has showed mastery at the toughest position for a first-year player to step into in the Association.

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Kyrie Irving #1 looks over at teammate Seth Curry #30 of the Duke Blue Devils while taking on the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 20
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Irving is already showing signs that he could become an elite-level NBA point guard.

If he would have played this year at Duke, the Blue Devils would have had one of the most dominant collegiate backcourts in many years.

Coach K would have had a relentless perimeter trio featuring Irving at the point with Austin Rivers and Seth Curry on the wings. Wow!

Each of them would have demanded special attention to shut them down.

Talk about an explosive group. Who could have stopped them?

Duke's frontcourt players would have also benefited from Irving's skills as a facilitator.

As much as the Plumlees and Ryan Kelly have stepped up their game this year without a consistent point guard feeding them, who knows how much better they would be with Irving at the controls.

There's a decent chance that if Irving would have returned for his sophomore season, Duke would currently be undefeated (29-0) and be approaching a historic moment, heading towards 2012 March Madness.

Nine Division I men's basketball teams have finished their regular seasons undefeated. Seven of those have gone on to win that year's NCAA Championship.

If today was Selection Sunday, this year's Duke team would be a No. 1 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils have as good of a chance as almost any team to make it to the Final Four and play for the school's (and Mike Krzyzewski's) fifth national title.

Orange fans and the Big Blue Nation won't want to hear this—but if Kyrie Irving was still playing in front of the Cameron Crazies, the Blue Devils would be the favorites to be cutting down the nets in New Orleans.