Last season the North Carolina Tar Heels had one of the worst post-title hangovers in history. Their loss in the NIT Championship was a perfect example of how they played all season long.
If those same Tar Heels are expecting the current champions to follow in their footsteps, they are wrong. Duke is going to be tough, talented, athletic, and one of the best teams in the nation.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Mike Krzyzewski
Arguably one of the best coaches in the history of the sport. He took his military background. With Bob Knight as his mentor, he turned into an incredible coach, husband, and father. He automatically gets his team 5-10 wins (if not more) just with coaching.
Associate Head Coach: Steve Wojciechowski
"Wojo" was one of the most interesting and exciting players to call Duke home. His ability to lead on the court transitioned nicely to coach. Although a great point guard, he typically works with the big guys. Expect him to be a key component in the Plumlee development program.
Associate Head Coach: Chris Collins
Coach Collins's best attribute could very well be his recruiting ability. He was instrumental in bringing in superstar Jon Scheyer. Collins is a very intelligent coach and will be very important to this team.
Assistant Coach: Nate James
Nate James is the only player in ACC history to win five straight straight conference titles. It is said that his toughness is unmatched. James has had a huge impact over captain Kyle Singler. Expect Nate's work ethic to help the Plumlees.
Next week I will take an in-depth look at the roster, and breakdown their prospective starting 5. In the mean time here is a quick look at your 2010-2011 Duke Blue Devils.
Kyle Singler - NCAA Final Four MVP and a horse in the ACC POY and National POY races. Last season Singler was the most important part of "the big three" down the stretch. Expect great things from Kyle this year. He is the picture perfect upperclassmen that stayed for four years. He buys into Duke and is the biggest reason Duke will be making a push for two in a row.
Nolan Smith - Smith followed Kyle Singler and stayed at Duke. A piece of last year's "big three," Smith often slid to the 2 guard spot. He was often the player that could drive, score, or get to the line. Over the summer Smith has been on fire, scoring 30+ on several occasions. Expect Smith to have an even bigger year. The addition of true point guard Kyrie Irving keeps Smith at the 2, the place where he is most comfortable. Senior guards that get single coverage tend to make big plays. Expect a lot of big plays.
Miles Plumee - Who knew a few years ago that Duke would be the future home of the Plumlee connection? Miles played well last year, but expect a huge jump this year. He will more than likely be a starter, get a lot more playing time, and be the rebounding presence in the absence of graduate Brian Zoubek.
Mason Plumlee - Plumlee volume two was a bright spot on last year's roster. This season he will be a better blocker and much better scorer. Mason may be the most exciting player in the post this season. He is an athletic player who will have his share of big-time plays in the upcoming season.
Andre Dawkins - Last year Dawkins showed no fear. At times it appeared that he was shooting the ball no matter where he was on the court. This season he is a year smarter and his shot is even better. Dawkins hit a couple of key shots in the Championship game last season, expect more of the same this year. Dawkins very well could get lost in the shuffle of the Duke guards, but if his shot is on, he is in. He is possibly the best pure shooter on this roster.
Seth Curry - Talk about having basketball in your blood. Dad Dell and brother Stephen are amazing basketball players. It has been said that Seth can be just as good as Stephen, but let's not get crazy yet. Seth is arguably the most hyped transfer to Duke in history, and this will be his year to shine. Last season he won a title from the bench. This season he wants to put his stamp on Duke history and win one from the court.
Ryan Kelly - Last season Kelly snuck some playing time early in the season but fizzled out as the competition stepped up. Over the off-season Kelly has been working just as hard as anyone in the country. Kelly could be the perfect person to step into the void left by Lance Thomas, especially if an injury occurs to one of the Plumlees. A hard worker that will put his body on the line, expect him to see some time and be a spark plug off of the bench.
Tyler Thornton - Tyler is the gravy soaked biscuit on Thanksgiving. Although good, you are so full from the turkey that you don't have room. On this guard stacked team, it will be extremely difficult for Tyler to get onto the court. Tyler's role will be very important next year. The combined losses of Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving (if he leaves early) means that Tyler could step into the starting lineup out of the blue. This is a learning year, one that will get him ready for the future. He may see playing time early, but come conference play he will be on the pine.
Last but certainly not least...
Kyrie Irving - It is said that you are supposed to leave the best for last. I am not saying this is the case, but it is certainly a possibility. This year's John Wall, Kyrie Irving will be in the running for ACC Freshman of the Year, and many other accolades. Irving is the best point guard to join Duke since Jay Williams, and his addition makes this team a very dangerous one. The ceiling is high for Irving. If he reaches full potential then it will be a special year.
Duke is a solid team and deserves the preseason's top ranking. They will be one of the deepest and most talented teams in the nation. Most of their players know how it feels to cut down the nets, and they want it to happen again. This team very well could be better than last years, and may be one of the best that Coach K has ever put together.
Note - I did not add walk-ons and team managers.