Duke's Kyrie Irving Returning Doesn't Guarantee Blue Devils Anything

Mike KlineAnalyst IMarch 16, 2011

Irving is an amazing talent and adding him can make Duke better. That being said it doesn't guarantee them anything.
Irving is an amazing talent and adding him can make Duke better. That being said it doesn't guarantee them anything.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It is understandable why the excitement brewing in the Duke fanbase is palpable.

It isn't every NCAA tournament when a top-seeded team gets an injection of NBA lottery talent before the opening weekend. But based on a press conference Tuesday by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, that is exactly what the Blue Devils appear to be getting.

Kyrie Irving is dusting off his game shoes and appears to be ready, willing and able to suit up for the West's No. 1 seed come Friday.

Irving, widely considered the nation's best point guard and best freshman at the time he suffered an innocuous toe injury, hasn't played since early December.

That being said, don't expect him to play much more than 10 minutes, as Krzyzewski will likely try a conservative approach to reincorporating the star point guard into the rotation.

So that may be the first reason Duke fans should settle down a bit. Don't expect Irving to start for a while, if ever again this season.

The news that Irving could play Friday has Twitter flapping its little wing off.

Experts who weren't so sure about how far Duke might go in the tournament are now talking about redoing their entire bracket and some are even considering making the Blue Devils their favorites to win the whole tournament.

Funny thing about that is, the real tournament hasn't even started yet and there will be 63 other teams who might beg to differ with that assumption.

It starts with Hampton, who, as ESPN analyst Jay Bilas has pointed out, is more like a 15 seed than a 16 seed thanks to the extra play-in games pitting two 16 seeds against one another.

So while no 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1, the same can't be said about a 15 seed. Still, as improbable as that even is, nothing is a given.

Incorporating a player, even one as good as Irving, who hasn't played in three months isn't as easy as it may seem.

There could be timing and chemistry issues to work out and there isn't much time to do that against real game competition. It hasn't always worked with star players coming back late, either.

In the 1984 season, UNC had to try to reincorporate star guard Kenny Smith, who was coming off an injury. He was never the same player.

In that case, Smith was a veteran. Irving is a freshman, so that challenge is an even more difficult one.

If there is a coach that can do it, though, Krzyzewski would be the guy, but that doesn't make it easy.

As for chemistry, though, Duke players are ready to add him back into the fold, but will they need to understand you can't just flip a switch and revert back to the way you were playing as a team pre-injury.

There is no real precedent for Irving's kind of injury. Duke insists they will not play him if he isn't 100 percent and that he can't re-injury the toe. But while those reassurances are nice, how does it affect Irving mentally?

Will he have that same edge and will he take chances trying to make explosive plays, or will he play more timidly?

There are far too many questions to name here, and due to the sheer number, it is far to presumptuous of any Duke fan to really think Duke cutting down the nets is a given.

Krzyzewski knows that and his team knows that, but it appears the fans and some media members have forgotten that a little.

The NCAA tournament can be a cruel temptress if you let it.

The best advice for Duke fans is to not take anything for granted and don't expect too much because you might end up disappointed, and that wouldn't be fair to a team who, win or lose another championship, has had a terrific season.