Winning a national title isn’t easy. Duplicating that success the following year is never easy.
But it is not hard to see why Duke should be the team to beat in men’s college basketball in 2010-11. As the start of another season is just a few weeks ago, Duke may just be starting what could be another long run of Final Four appearances for coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Last season Duke won a national title with just three guards on scholarship.
Jon Scheyer, Duke’s point guard and leading scorer has graduated.
In his place is Kyrie Irving, who last season was regarded by many as the best true point guard in the nation at the high school level.
That is a contrast to Scheyer, who was a converted into a point guard out of necessity.
Irving isn’t expected to pop three-pointers at will like Scheyer did. But don’t worry.
Duke has Seth Curry, the son of former NBA shooting star Dell Curry and younger brother of Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
The youngest Curry is a transfer from Liberty University, where he led the nation amongst freshmen in 2008-09, averaging 20.2 points per game. He too is known for his outside shooting ability.
Some think Curry is as good, if not better than his older brother.
Duke also returns senior shooting guard Nolan Smith, who averaged 17.5 points per game last season. The son of the late NBA player Derek Smith, is certainly one of Duke’s go-to players.
The Blue Devils also return sophomore Andre Dawkins, who averaged 4.6 points per game as a freshman. Dawkins actually started college a year earlier than he was originally expected to, as Krzyzewski was desperate to have a third backcourt player along with Scheyer and Smith last season.
Duke also has freshman Tyler Thornton, who will be a backup point guard and will hope to get some playing time if some of the above mentioned leave early for the NBA.
With the commitment to play for the Blue Devils by the top high school guard in the nation, Austin Rivers, it is scary to think how good the Blue Devils could be in 2011-12.
If Irving leaves for the NBA after one season as some have predicted, Duke will still have the sons of two former NBA players in their backcourt, as Austin is the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Dawkins might be also be a star by then.
Duke’s front court may not be as impressive as the outlook on the backcourt, but it isn’t far off.
Kyle Singler is a senior and should no doubt compete for National Player of the Year honors. At 6-foot-8, he averaged 17.6 points per game last season and passed up a chance at the NBA even though he probably would have gone in the first round.
From last season, Duke loses forward Lance Thomas, who averaged 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. The players expected to replace him are either 6-7 freshman Josh Hairston, a member of the U.S. Under-18 National Team, or sophomore 6-11 Ryan Kelly, a former McDonald’s All-American, who had a disappointing freshman year.
The other player the Blue Devils lose is center 7-1 center Brian Zoubek, who came on strong in his senior year after three mediocre seasons.
In his place is more playing time for 6-10 sophomore Mason Plumlee, who will team with brother Miles, a 6-10 junior, to bang the boards for the Blue Devils.
Looking into the future, Duke already has a replacement for Singler in 6-6 small forward Michael Gbinjie, who is regarded as a top 25 high school player nationally. The Blue Devils also have 7-0 Marshall Plumlee, the tallest and youngest of the three brothers as well as Tyler Adams, who at 6-9, 255, gives Duke a body that is similar to Elton Brand, something it has lacked in recent years.
If there is anything Mike Krzyzewski might have problems with, it is getting enough playing time for all of these stars. But if anyone knows how to handle repeating success, nobody at the collegiate level has done it better than Coach K.