2009-10 record: 35-5 (13-3), first in ACC
Won NCAA tournament
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, 795-220, 30 years (868-279 overall)
Last NCAA miss: 1995
The good: The Devils are loaded. Again.
National player of the candidates Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are back. They’re versatile, smart and proven crunch performers. Singler was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, while Smith was the team’s driving force, getting to the lane and creating scoring opportunities. They’re flanked by sharpshooting guards Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry, both of whom provide instant offense off the bench.
Then there’s freshman Kyrie Irving, Duke’s most heralded incoming guard since Jason Williams.
The bad: Here’s a sentence one wouldn’t have expected to read one year ago – Duke will miss Brian Zoubek.
The often-maligned center was a rebounding force last season and gave the Devils much-needed toughness. Can young forwards Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly or Josh Hairston fill the void left by Zoubek and Lance Thomas, or will Singler spend all his time doing the dirty work up front?
(Not to mention pretty much everyone and their sister will be picking the Devils to win. Can you say pressure?
The unknown: Coach K’s already voiced his support for Irving, but only two teams since 1995 have won titles with freshmen point guards, let alone won ’em back-to-back. Duke needs Irving to be smart, creative and efficient to repeat. Even the best freshmen guards (John Wall, Derrick Rose) can struggle in March.
Smith can step in when needed, but this needs to be Irving’s team.