Duke will start the 2011-2012 basketball season with sky-high expectations as usual. Coach K has dealt with the loss of Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith by adding Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook, among others.
But should these expectations be so high? Are they high because Duke is a good team? Or are they high because Duke is Duke and Duke is expected to win?
Due to a lack of leadership on the current Blue Devil roster, it's tough for even the most optimistic fan to imagine another national title. Freshman superstars like Rivers are great for generating buzz, but can they produce titles as well as older, more experienced teams like, say, Duke in 2010.
I tend to think not, which is why I don't think Duke will win the ACC (or the NCAA title) this season. Here's why.
Duke was at its best in 2009-2010 with three experienced big-time players leading the way in Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer. Last season, with Kyrie Irving running the show and to be honest, pressing, Duke's offense wasn't the same.
Players like Irving are better suited for the John Calipari type of play, which allows for them to be featured every play of every game. Perhaps Austin Rivers would have been better off in Kentucky.
That doesn't mean Duke won't be happy to have him or that he won't succeed because Rivers is immensely talented. But the most successful Duke offense of recent times revolved on kickouts and dead-eye shooters.
Rivers will get his points, but eventually opponents will start to key in on him, and that will slow the offense.
The Plumlee brothers, Miles and Mason, averaged just 12 points combined last season. The addition of younger brother Marshall won't bolster that much more.
The trio is athletic enough that they should factor into the offense more. However, due to a lack of touch around the rim, none of them are consistent enough to draw a double team.
The trio's offensive shortcomings put added pressure on Duke's guards to carry the scoring load. It's been this way for a while now, but without as much talent on the wings, fans and opponents will start to take more notice.
Ever since he transferred from Liberty after his freshman season, Duke fans have been awaiting Seth Curry's arrival. Well, unfortunately, he's already arrived, and what we saw last season is what Duke will get for two more years.
Curry averaged nine points in 25 minutes per game last season, shooting a very good 43.5 percent from three-point range. That's a far cry from the 20 points per game he averaged at Liberty.
Granted, he's been playing a supporting role thus far at Duke as Nolan Smith's understudy. But I just don't think we'll see much more than this from the young Curry.
He's too small to defend 2-guards (he won't see much time at the point with Quinn Cook at the helm) and isn't great at creating his own shot. He's more athletic than fellow shooter Jon Scheyer, but Scheyer had a few more inches with which to work and was clever with his pump fakes and mid-range game.
Curry, it appears, is a one-dimensional player.
Billed as the next LeBron James out of high school, Harrison Barnes put up a solid, if at times seemingly unspectacular, freshman season. Barnes averaged 16 points and six rebounds, but it wasn't good enough for him as he elected to return for a sophomore season.
Barnes was expected to be a one-and-done, but with a year of experience to his name, he'll be the top player in the ACC.
Along with Tyler Zeller (who, unlike the Plumlee brothers, scores), Barnes and North Carolina are the favorites to win the ACC.
Nobody was more surprised than me to see Ryan Kelly get as many touches as he did last year, as I always thought him a perennial bench player.
With the Plumlee brothers unable to score the way they should, Kelly will have to pick up the load. He averaged six points per game last season, and I expect that figure to shoot to double digits as Coach K looks for options other than Austin Rivers.
Kelly is what he is, a shooter. But he's soft too and goofy.
Kyle Singler filled the role of "tall shooter" in recent years, but he's infinitely more talented than Kelly. Kelly will need to knock down close to half of his threes to be successful.
This guy? He's no Greg Paulus. Sign me up, Coach K.