The 2010 college basketball season isn't cold yet and fans and media alike are already discussing next year.
Naturally, with any championship there is the question of doing it again. So is Duke a team capable of repeating as national champions?
The simple, unexamined answer is yes. That being said, there are way too many factors to say that the Blue Devils are the favorites to take home the title again.
Duke's biggest loss begins with at least one of the team's "Big Three."
Senior guard Jon Scheyer will move on after graduating, taking with him the leadership, shooting touch, and the variety of facial expressions that made Duke fans chuckle and haters cringe.
Adding to the list are fellow senior big men Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek.
Thomas was Duke's best defensive player with his athleticism and length. While he certainly wasn't the offensive weapon many fans had hoped for, he proved to be a solid role player on this year’s championship team.
And while I never expected to ever say this, Zoubek's play in the second half of this season may have been one of the primary factors in Duke hanging a fourth banner in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Kyle X Y Singler
From the moment I first saw him don a Duke uniform, I knew Kyle Singler was destined to be a very good—if not great—player.
He was Mr. Do-it-all for the Blue Devils this season. After a slow start as he adjusted to his new role as more of a perimeter-oriented player, Singler came on very strong.
Now after winning a national championship, many feel he will forgo his senior season in favor of the NBA and a probable first-round draft selection.
While nothing is decided as of yet, Nolan Smith hinted or at least let slip that Singler may be a goner.
Following the West Virginia game, Smith said that he didn't want that game to be Jon (Scheyer), Lance (Thomas), and Kyle's (Singler) last game. Some feel he may have misspoken and said Kyle instead of Zoubek, but chances are he knows more than the rest of us.
With Singler, Duke is sure to be arguably the preseason's top team. Without him, Duke will still be very good but they can expect to drop at least a few notches.
New Kids on the Block
The Blue Devils are bringing in a top-10—if not top-five or top-six—recruiting class next season, depending on which recruiting outlet you listen to.
The cream of the class is point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving, a silky smooth guard from New Jersey, hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Duke greats Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams.
Early indications are that he is all Duke fans hoped for and more. He will surely lead Duke's offense like no guard since Chris Duhon, but better.
He can maximize Mason and Miles Plumlee's offensive potential as well as create for himself and others.
Expect Duke to run early and often with Irving running the show.
Duke also adds junior college transfer Carrick Felix, an athletic defensive stopper, Tyler Thornton, a future contributor at point guard, Josh Hairston, a nice power forward, and Seth Curry, a transfer who sat out this season after transferring from Liberty.
While Duke's newcomers will add extra athleticism, scoring potential, and depth, you still can't make up for experience and that is where this year's team excelled.
If Singler stays, joining him as a probable senior captain is Nolan Smith, who improved more than just about any player in the nation.
Smith's scoring output took a dramatic upward turn this season, and his steady play next year as well as leadership will help the young guys adjust, especially if Singler leaves.
Add in his abilities as a defensive stopper and he will likely be one of the Blue Devils' most valuable players, if not the most valuable.
The aforementioned Plumlee brothers also return. Miles will be another year older and wiser and not-so-little brother Mason should fill a larger role on both ends of the floor.
While they aren't the rebounding machines like Zoubek and aren't as good as defenders as Thomas, they are athletic and can contribute both offensively, defensively, and on the boards.
Duke will also figure in an older, more confident Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly who should both find more playing time as long as they continue to work hard and develop their game this summer.
So the future is certainly not bleak for the Blue Devils. While a repeat may be a bit much to expect, especially given the amount of parity present in the college game these days, it isn't totally out of questions.
Like any title run, several things will have to go right and Duke may not be able to control all of them, but given the experience and skill they bring back along with the talented youth, the Blue Devils should be in the mix come next season.
And they also have this guy named Krzyzewski who is a pretty good coach to help lead the way.
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