Saturday, March 26, 2011

Next Year

Defeat tastes bitter. It's been two years for us Duke fans, so some of you guys may have forgotten what it's actually like. First of all, I just want to congratulate the Arizona Wildcats for playing a flawless game. They outplayed us, and took our will (which was considerable). Therefore, I can accept this loss. In retrospect, we had a great season by most standards. We won 30 games, went to the sweet 16, and won the ACC Tournament Championship.
A pair of blue devil legends

Second, I'd like to recognize Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith for being unbelievable players for Duke for 4 years. Those guys are the epitome of what Duke is all about and why others are so jealous of us. (You can call it hate, but deep down, it's jealousy) Not many teams can trot out 2 national championship winning senior All-Americans. The only other Duke team, or ANY team in my memory, which matched that was in 1992 with Hurley and Laettner.  (Aside from Wooden's UCLA, and Rupp's Kentucky teams of course, but that was another era, and the Florida repeat champions were juniors) 

Nolan and Kyle were among the best to ever play at Duke, and we will cherish the memories of their playing days at Duke forever. I would not be surprised to see both of their jerseys retired.

Now down to business . . . what have we got going on next year? The biggest factor is, of course, Kyrie Irving's decision to go pro or stay at Duke. I'm not going to speculate, because I don't have a clue what he's going to do. Outside of that, these are the keys for success next year:


Nolan, Kyle, Mason, and Kyrie were our 4 best defensive players this year. They could all be gone next year. This is a SERIOUS issue. we cannot afford to lose all of them and expect to win a national championship.

Of our returning players, I would say Mason (if he returns), Seth, Tyler, and Ryan are above average defenders. Miles and especially Andre NEED to work on their quickness and anticipation during this offseason.


Replacing Nolan and Kyle is impossible. We're talking about 2 of the top 10 players to ever wear DUKE on their chests. Having 2 senior all-americans play all out on every play, especially defensively caused the entire team step up their game. However, while we can never duplicate what they meant to Duke, we need someone to lead this group. The best possible candidates for this job are Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry in that order. While Miles will be a senior, I do not believe he is vocal enough to lead this team. He has always played somewhat in the shadow of Mason and Zoubs, and unless he has a Zoubek/Josh Harrellson type of senior year, I don't think we'll be seeing Miles slap the floor on defense to fire up the Crazies. Seth will need to take the reins from Nolan and Kyle if Kyrie goes pro. On the other hand, if Kyrie returns . . . we will have our definitive leader.


Andre is our best returning wing player. I cannot tell you how freaking scared this makes me after 4 years of having Singler out there terrorizing everyone on both sides of the court. Dre cannot possibly expect to play 30+ minutes if he cannot improve his perimeter defense and ball handling. He needs to make the biggest leap of anyone on the team if we are to be successful.


What we really missed this year was that all-purpose super versatile defender who could shut down a team's best player, say, a guy like Derrick Williams. All of our championship teams had that guy. I'm talking about the Lance Thomas/Shane Battier/Nate James/Grant Hill/Thomas Hill guys. Chris Carrawell also fits this description, although he was never lucky enough to win it all. Kyle tried to be that guy for us this year, but it hurt his offense sometimes, and he never truly fit that role. I'm hoping Hairston or Gbinijie can turn themselves into that guy for us.

Next year, we will still have size down low and a major perimeter scoring threat in Austin Rivers. Kyrie's decision to go pro or not will obviously be the biggest factor in our title hopes, but these 4 issues are the next things we need to consider.
Here's my Best/Worst case scenarios for 2011-12:

-Kyrie returns for another year, becomes Duke's leader
-Rivers is everything we heard about and more, and figures out how to blend his game in with Kyrie, learning how to play off the ball
-Seth takes his game up another notch, turns into a consistent double digit scorer off the bench
-Mason and Miles actually develop some offensive post moves and are capable of backing down their defender 1 on 1 a few times per game for a high percentage look.
-Josh or Michael evolves into an elite defender who can shoot the 3, and becomes the starter at small forward by the end of the year (yes, I'm dead serious)
-Our starting 5 is: Kyrie/Austin/Josh/Ryan/Mason
-Ryan Kelly continues his progression as a skilled big man who is always a threat to score, making it impossible to help off of him, starts all year at the 4.
-Andre continues to be instant offense off the bench and improves his defense to the point where he is no longer a liability on that end.
-Seth/Tyler/Quinn/Andre/Michael/Marshall accept their roles as bench players on a ridiculously deep team, but continue to work hard and help the team in whatever way they can when they are on the court.
-Duke is ranked #1 all season long and wins the national championship in one of the toughest fields of all time

-Kyrie goes pro
-At the end of the year, our starting 5 is Quinn/Seth/Austin/Ryan/Mason
-Josh improves enough to play 12-15 minutes a game off the bench , providing energy and defense
-Miles and Mason improve a bit on offense, but still don't dominate the way that they should for their size/athleticism, but do develop a tough enforcer type of mentality
-Tyler and Andre bring defense and offense off the bench, respectively, as they have this year
-Duke stays in the top 10 all year, gets a 1 seed and makes it to at least the elite 8, and has a good shot to win it all against loaded squads from Ohio State, Kentucky, and Carolina

-Kyrie and Mason both go pro
-Austin is good, but because of a lack of consistent offense around him, gets constantly doubled
-Quinn is not ready to run the point as a freshman
-Our starting 5 at the end of the year: Seth/Tyler/Austin/Ryan/Miles
-Josh Hairston inexplicably continues to ride the pine
-Gbinijie and Marshall don't pan out as impact players quite yet
-Duke is a top 15 team, gets a 2 or 3 seed, makes it to the sweet 16 and gets upset by a team on fire from 3.

Well, that's it for now, I'm just glad to finally get a real post in. GO DUKE!!!!!!!!