Duke Blue Devils Basketball: 10 Reasons Dukies Are in Big Trouble
Duke's back-to-back national title hopes were dashed by the University of Arizona in the Sweet 16 back on March 24th, 2011. The Blue Devils were unable to match Derrick Williams' athleticism as the Wildcats ran away in a 93-77 dunkfest.
The loss spelled the end of an era for the Dukies, as Coach Mike Krzyzewski lost his two senior leaders in guard Nolan Smith and forward Kyle Singler, along with projected number-one draft pick Kyrie Irving. With Smith and Singler gone, only the Plumlee brothers (Miles and Mason) remain as regular contributors from the 2010 National Champion squad.
Duke is expected to be a top-10 team every year; Coach K always seems to put together a solid, if not elite, squad. Given the team's pedigree, anything short of a national championship is considered a failure. Here's why they won't win it this year, and some reason why they're in trouble in the years to come.
Goodbye, Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith might not have been the prettiest scorer or the most electrifying playmaker, but he sure was consistent. The senior point guard led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring (21.3) and was second in assists (5.2). He carried the team while Kyrie Irving sat out with a toe injury.
The Blue Devils will struggle to find someone to match the projected second-round pick's production, but what they'll miss most is his consistency and poise as the team's senior leader.
And Goodbye, Kyle Singler
Like Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler played the role of "composed, experienced winner" for Duke in 2011. He was probably the Blue Devils' most dynamic offensive threat as the only player who could step out and (consistently) hit the three. Singler was also a solid slasher, and had the ability to create his own shot. The projected second-round pick averaged 17 points and seven rebounds per game during his senior campaign.
Singler added (some) size to a Duke front line that has historically been on the small side. His defensive shortcomings were highlighted in the NCAA tournament, as he was dominated by Arizona's Derrick Williams, but Duke never relied on him to be a stopper. Coach K will miss Singler's shooting and presence on the court.
We Barely Knew You, but Goodbye, Kyrie Irving
The future of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving, played only eight games for the Blue Devils in 2010-11, missing most of the regular season with a toe injury. In his time on the floor, Irving was one of the most dynamic players in college basketball, scoring 17.5 points per game and shooting 46 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Duke rarely lands a one-and-done recruit like Irving; Coach K prefers to bring his players all the way through his system. Irving might have been a better fit in a run-and-gun offense, but that doesn't make his contributions to Duke any less important. Irving added an element to the Blue Devil offense that many ACC opponents hadn't seen. He could grab a defensive rebound and beat every defender down the court for an easy layup. Considering Duke's slow, half-court offense, I think it's safe to say Coach K will miss the occasional easy bucket from the future star.
Freshman Point Guard Quinn Cook
It's one thing to have a freshman point guard whose name is Kyrie Irving; Irving was a player who likely would have skipped college if the rules allowed him to do so. It's a completely different thing to have an unproven freshman point guard named Quinn Cook.
Cook's a four-star recruit out of basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He's apparently very solid, but then again, what future college basketball star doesn't look good when playing against a bunch of pimple-faced high schoolers.
Cook will need to make consistently smart plays and keep his turnovers down to succeed in an offense in which ball movement is critical.
Another One and Done: Austin Rivers
For the second straight year, Duke's top recruit will (probably) play just one season with the Blue Devils. Austin Rivers will be Duke's best player from the first time he touches the court, but the one-and-done style doesn't fit Coach K's strategy of developing players to learn his offense.
When Duke won the title in 2010, they did so with Smith, Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Brian Zoubek: two juniors and two seniors leading the way. It's no coincidence. That was the best team Coach K has put out in recent memory, and that's the team that got it done. He had years to ingrain his system into these players. Rivers will be great and will score tons of points, but won't bring a championship to Duke.
Austin Rivers...Then What?
Austin Rivers is going to get his. He'll probably score 20 points per game, but where does Coach K turn for offense after that?
Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, and Ryan Kelly are all knockdown shooters, but none of them is particularly adept at creating his own shot.
The same goes for the Plumlee trio (younger brother Marshall joins the squad this coming season), who can grab offensive boards for putbacks, but have essentially no post game.
It will be interesting to see where the previously prolific offense comes from after Rivers moves on.
North Carolina Returns Key Players
The University of North Carolina retained two first-round talents in Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller. With another year under their belts, Barnes will refine his scoring touch and Zeller will continue to beast on the boards. The Tar Heels also added elite recruit James McAdoo from Virginia.
The Dukies have relied on winning the ACC Tournament to garner a number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament. With UNC as a force this upcoming season, I can't see Coach K's squad winning the ACC again, especially when relying so heavily on freshmen.
Does this look like the face of a college basketball leader?
Ryan Kelly is now one of the elder statesmen on the Blue Devils, along with Miles and Mason Plumlee. None of them have had feature roles on the team until now, as Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have carried the load for the current core's time at Duke.
It'll be interesting to see how these former role players will react to being thrown into the mix and expected to fill a leadership role.
Ohio State University and Jared Sullinger
Ohio State's big man Jared Sullinger elected to remain a Buckeye for at least one more season. He was a force as a freshman, and he'll obviously be better with another year of experience.
Duke will likely have to go through Ohio State in order to take a national championship. I don't see the Plumlee trio slowing Sullinger down in the post.
There's a reason Duke won the 2010 National Championship. It's the same reason the Butler Bulldogs have reached back-to-back national title games: experience.
Duke won in 2010 with Singler, Smith, and Scheyer. Butler has succeeded with Shelvin Mack and Adam Howard in their final two years.
Duke has just one senior in Miles Plumlee. The team's juniors aren't experienced enough to carry the load. Austin Rivers will only be able to do so much.