Duke Basketball: Mason Plumlee and Austin Rivers Will Decide Duke's Future

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2012

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16:  (C) Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts as he stands between Gabe Knutson #42 and B.J. Bailey #32 of the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the second half during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 16, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke's fate for next year rests in the hands of two players: Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee.

It would be easy to look at Duke's upset at the hands of Lehigh and begin predicting doom for the school.

However, should Rivers and Plumlee stay in school, the Blue Devils will arguably be one of the best schools in the country next year.

Duke only graduates Miles Plumlee, but it's almost as if nothing will change because they have yet another Plumlee brother, Marshall, who is redshirting this year.

Standing at 6'11", Marshall Plumlee is cut in the same mold as Mason and Miles.

The biggest question marks after the season is over concern Rivers and Plumlee.

If these two guys leave, the Blue Devils would have two massive holes to fill. Along with Marshall Plumlee, they'll have Alex Murphy step into the rotation next year.

But losing only one senior doesn't allow the Blue Devils a deep, strong recruiting class to provide reinforcements.

Rivers has NBA written all over him and of the two, he would be the one more likely to leave school.

But both he and Plumlee would really benefit from one more year in college.

Rivers was the team's leading scorer, but he would be smart to let his body develop a little more before jumping right into the NBA.

Plumlee was the only Duke player to put in a good performance against Lehigh, but his offensive ability is suspect.

In fact, losing in the first round could really spur the players on for next year.

Who wants to have a game in which you're on the wrong end of an historic upset be your last collegiate game?

Some probably had Duke winning the national title, but really, they didn't blow anybody away this year in terms of quality.

It was clear they needed some time to grow and if given a year or two, they could blossom into the best in the country.

The chances of that happening might actually be better after Duke was knocked out in the first round.

Look for Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee to avenge the embarrassment of losing to Lehigh and work to bring the national title back to Durham next year.