College BB: With a Personality Change for Duke, Will the Defense Hold?

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIJuly 12, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05:  Jon Scheyer of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates after he cut down a piece of the net following their 61-59 win against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Yet another Plumlee brother will be joining Duke for the 2012 season—Marshall Plumlee. You can hear the scoffing already, as the bashers get ready to pounce.

Friends and foes alike, contain your excitement over that one for the moment. This year the Blue Devils need the other two, Mason and Miles, to produce and lead them back to the Final Four.

The Devils return, in addition to the brothers Plumlee, All-American candidates Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, and welcome Kyrie Irving and Liberty transfer Seth Curry. Without much contribution from anyone else, this is as formidable a lineup (at least on paper) as there is.

Yes, Michigan State (when aren't they?), Purdue, Kansas State, and Villanova will be considered for the top spot when the polls become active again, but Duke has the edge, especially if Irving is as advertised.

The Blue Devils won last year with defense—tough and physical play earns good teams extra games in March. Of the four others mentioned, all except Villanova used the same type of approach to make good tourney runs. Talent-wise Duke is better this year than last, but the most difficult thing to replace is leadership, and this is where they will sorely miss Jon Scheyer.

No, he wasn't the fastest player on the floor and no, he really wasn't a "true" point guard. But, in terms of controlling the game and limiting turnovers, Scheyer was all that. This will be Coach K's biggest challenge this season—molding Irving into that same type of player without diminishing his athleticism.

Coach K also has the ability, like the Tom Izzos or Bo Ryans, to use what is at his disposal to create his team's identity. This season's version of the Blue Devils will score more and push the pace far more often. Whether they can defend at the same level as last year's group, or even something close to that, will determine if they can make a run at repeating as national champs.