Can Duke repeat again in 2011?
The Duke Blue Devils are the defending national champions and are getting ready to defend their crown. They open the season on Nov. 14 against Princeton.
The Blue Devils have been voted as the preseason No. 1 team in America, and yesterday Kyle Singler was voted as a first-team preseason All-American.
Last season, Duke went 35-5 overall and 13-3 in the ACC. In the NCAA Tournament, they defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, California, Purdue, Baylor, West Virginia and then Butler in a captivating title game.
This season, the Blue Devils lose three starters and return two. They lose post players Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas and point guard Jon Scheyer.
Losing Zoubek and Thomas hurts too, especially because they played great defense and were excellent rebounders last year down the stretch. It will hurt to lose Scheyer's awareness, great basketball IQ, free throw percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Returning starters for the Blue Devils are Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
Smith had a great NCAA Tournament, averaging 17.4 points, 3.0 assists and 1.8 turnovers per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field, 39 percent from the three-point line, and 77 percent from the free-throw line.
Smith will look to be a key contributor to this Duke team once again. As a leader on and off the court, he has a big role and will be counted upon to win games.
Singler was the Final Four Most Outstanding Player last season after guiding Duke to the title.
During the Final Four, he led Duke to wins over West Virginia and Butler while averaging 20.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He also shot 55 percent from the three-point line in those two games.
Singler was also an All-ACC selection and named the ACC Tournament MVP after leading Duke to the ACC title.
During the season, Singler started all 40 games and averaged 17.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 42 percent from the field, including 40 percent from the three-point line and 80 percent from the charity stripe. He led the team in three-point percentage, blocks and double-doubles.
This season, Singler is a leader for the team, along with Smith, and will be counted upon to stay healthy and lead this team to another national championship. Singler must also stay out of foul trouble.
Singler is coming off knee surgery but should be fully recovered when for their first game of the season on Nov. 14.
The Blue Devils return seven other players but lose five.
Post players Miles and Mason Plumlee return and will most likely start and take the places of Zoubek and Thomas.
Both Plumlees got some starts last season and saw significant playing time, and they will be counted on to rebound and play defense for this Duke team.
Forward Ryan Kelly will also be counted on this season in the post. He didn't play much last year but will probably see more time this year.
The Blue Devils bring in three talented freshmen: Kyrie Irving, Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston.
Irving will start for the Blue Devils at point guard and will be heavily counted upon.
He could be the best point guard Duke has had since Jason Williams. He is a great ball-handler, dribbler and passer and can score from anywhere on the court. One thing to watch for is his explosiveness on offense. Irving will be counted upon to lead this team.
Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston will start the year off the bench and will look to contribute for the Blue Devils. Thornton is a point guard; Hairston is a power forward.
Thornton is a leader on the court, can get to the rim and can hit three-point shots when the team needs them. He is a good passer and ball-handler and plays with energy while on the court.
Hairston can shoot well from mid-range, is smart on the floor and plays with intensity. He needs to work on his low-post scoring and rebounding in traffic.
Guards Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry will also be keys for Duke in 2010. Both are pure shooters, especially from the three-point line. They are also athletic and can score a lot. They'll be counted upon to be key contributors off the bench.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will have this team ready and will put the best team on the floor every night.
The potential for this team is great, and they could very well repeat as national champions.
Now go out and watch the Duke Blue Devils to see how they do in what should be an exciting college basketball season!