It is easy for Duke fans to get caught up in the hype of a potential national championship repeat.
For starters, you bring back two key components from last year's title team, as well as a few other role players expected to step up into important starting roles.
You have a talented and young core of guards with athleticism and playmaking and shooting ability. Throw in a Hall of Fame coach, and voila—you have the makings of a contender.
But to play Devil's advocate for a moment, what would cause this seemingly invincible group of Blue Devils to falter? What would cause the preseason favorite of every magazine, sports agency and expert, except for the Sporting News (they picked Michigan State), to not win it all?
Here is why.
Note: This is merely a hypothetical and not at all a prediction of what will come for the 2010-11 season.
Duke loses its biggest asset from last season—literally. Brian Zoubek was a major factor on the boards once he was inserted into the starting lineup midway through the season.
The 7'1" center was a force on the defensive end altering shots, but more importantly as a rebounder on the offensive end, giving Duke an incredible number of second-chance shots.
None of the returning players have the strength and size of Zoubek, and none possess the x-factor that made him great at least for a season: the beard.
Sure, Miles Plumlee has started growing one, but it is clearly not as impressive or as imposing as Zoubs'. So without Treebeard, Duke may just not have enough strength on the glass.
Somewhere in the world Lance Thomas is waving his arms frantically in an opposing person's face and jumping up and down like a man who mainlines 5 Hour Energy.
The man was pure energy and a major part of the life force that sparked Duke to the national title.
As the on-the-ball defender, Thomas' skinny and long frame made it difficult for opposing playmakers to set up plays or get off good shots.
He was also a killer on the boards with fellow big man Brian Zoubek.
It will take Mike Krzyzewski and about 20 engineers to figure out how to generate the type of energy that would otherwise run a small country.
Probably the biggest loss from the 2010 squad is that of Jon Scheyer. The sure-handed and cool-headed Scheyer was truly a coach on the court.
While running the point for only his second year, he posted a phenomenal 3-1 assist to turnover ratio—not bad for a natural shooting guard.
Yet he still managed to score, as he went on to average double figures in each of his four seasons. Often overshadowed nationally at the point guard spot by flashier, quicker guards, Scheyer's leadership and skill helped Duke win the title.
That is hard to replace no matter what.
The Blue Devils had a few close calls last season with regard to injuries, but will they be able to avoid any major injuries to key players in 2010-2011?
Last season, Duke lost projected starter Mason Plumlee early to a broken hand, and later star forward Kyle Singler suffered a wrist injury on his shooting hand, although he didn't miss any games.
If the Blue Devils can be as fortunate this season, they will be in good shape, but the specter of an injury is always present considering how hard Duke plays.
Any injury to one or more key components would set back the Blue Devils' championship hopes significantly.
It is hard to imagine, but this Duke team could have the greatest compilation of shooters ever to don a Blue Devil uniform on one team.
With Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, just for starters, it is hard to see everyone having an off night at once.
That being said, Duke was very good last year at creating some balance mixing in the interior. They certainly have some talent in the post to do that again, but if the Blue Devils get too trigger-happy from outside, they could have some trouble.
While it is hard to see Kyrie Irving as any kind of disadvantage for Duke, just the fact he is a freshman has to make you take some pause.
It may be the slightest of pauses, but it is still a pause. He is still a freshman who has never started a college game before.
No matter how good you are, there are some growing pains. As good as John Wall was last year for Kentucky, he wasn't enough to push them over the top.
Granted, Irving has excellent support from experienced stars, but he is still expected to run the show, which can be a daunting task for anyone.
Again, in and of itself, having Irving as your starter, as good as he is, is no weakness. However, he is still a freshman, and freshmen make mistakes too—just saying.
The brothers Plumlee have some very big shoes to fill as the post players for this year's Duke team.
They replace Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek as starters. While both are more of an offensive threat, will they be able to rebound and defend like those two?
Most indications are that they will, at least when it comes to blocking shots, but can they box out stronger guys for rebounds and give Duke second-chance shots? If not, Duke's offense could struggle in half-court situations, which they will eventually have to play.
Both run the floor well, but can they stay healthy and live up to the hype? If so, Duke is in good shape; if not, then they could struggle.
Ask any team that won the national title about winning it, and they will say it is hard. Ask the team from the season after, and they would tell you it is even more difficult.
Duke has only two teams to look at as recent examples: one being Duke's 1992 title team and the Florida squad from just a few seasons ago.
Both featured key members of the previous year's title teams, and both experienced the pressure. The fact that there have only been two teams to do it in nearly 20 years speaks volumes to how hard it is.
The media, fan and internal pressures are ever-present. That combined with an almost incalculable number of intangibles makes a repeat one of the hardest things to do in all sports.
Not a more lively bunch in all of college basketball are you likely to find, but behind the blue paint and crazy persona lives the beating heart of your typical fan.
Great teams have fans that expect, well, great teams—every year, no matter what.
Teams coming off titles get more of the pressure, as fans expect everything from another title to a perfect season. Both are incredibly difficult things to do and a bit unfair to naturally expect.
No doubt Mike Krzyzewski is a master at curbing enthusiasm like no man since Larry David, but a little part of the team will listen and feel a bit of that pressure.
If they can ignore it enough and focus on what they need to do, then they have a chance. If not, well, there is always next year, as the fans might say.
Last year's Duke squad had the one thing you just can't coach regardless of how good a coach you are: chemistry.
Mike Krzyzewski said numerous times that his team was as close as any he had ever coached. The team had been through a lot of ups and downs together and grew together.
Now many of those players who saw the hard times (22-11 in 2007) are gone. While some still linger, many new components are used to seeing Duke win.
The bonds that grew between Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and Jon Scheyer are no longer at Duke.
Sure, there are still bonds, but what kind of chemistry will the team have, especially with so many new parts and a new point guard?
It isn't impossible or unimaginable for the team to be close, but will they exhibit that chemistry that just oozed from last year's team and almost seemed to will them to victory after victory?
Only time will tell, but a team that works together wins together.