Loaded Duke looks ready to defend its national title next season
Duke managed to win a national title in the season
Now Irving is joining a team that's likely to be No. 1 in the post-draft-deadline Power Rankings I'll release next week, and has a realistic shot at back-to-back titles. While potential 2010-11 contenders Butler (with
Irving's impact won't be as much on offensive quality as it will be on tempo. Duke had the most efficient offense in the country last year and much of that was because senior point guard
What Irving can do, though, is make Duke a fast-paced team once again. He said that Krzyzewski recruited him "to be a pure point guard and get up and down the court," and playing alongside Smith, he should be able to make that happen. Scheyer was more of a methodical point guard, and as the Blue Devils made more and more use of 7-footer
And they were wildly successful doing just that, finishing No. 1 overall in kenpom.com's efficiency rankings. But the smart adaptation this year, Collins said, will be to "play fast" -- and a likely lineup of Irving, Smith, Singler and the
It's common for coaches of slower-paced teams (Duke ranked 249th in possessions per game in '09-10) to talk about playing fast in the offseason, and then not actually put it into practice, but the stats show that the Blue Devils are willing to run when they have the right personnel. Their pace has varied wildly over the past five seasons:
Compare that to their rival, North Carolina, which has played a similar (fast) pace for each of the past five seasons:
I'd expect Duke to get back in 70-plus possession territory this season -- and there's a chance the Devils could play even faster than Carolina.
Duke's single biggest question mark isn't how good Irving will be: It's how well the Plumlee brothers (
Take a look at the offensive rebounding percentages for Duke's 3-4-5 starters from last season, and their national rank in that category:
With Zoubek, Thomas and Singler on the floor together, Duke was getting 38.8 percent of available offensive boards -- essentially, second-chance opportunities galore.
Now look at the '09-10 rebounding stats for next season's projected 3-4-5 lineup (with the Plumlees being somewhat interchangeable):
There will be more available offensive boards now that Zoubek is gone, but this trio currently projects to be under 30 percent -- a huge dropoff that would adversely affect their offense. The burden is really on the Plumlees to make huge gains on the glass, and it's possible that Mason, in particular, could make a significant jump between his freshman and sophomore seasons. He missed six games with a broken wrist at the start of '09-10, and we only saw glimpses of his full potential.
In the Duke locker room after the national title game, Smith was asked what he thought about next year's backcourt, which includes him, Irving, sophomore
Smith, Scheyer and Singler rarely came off the floor, and Smith's feeling was that he would be even more productive if his minutes were in the lower-30s, as opposed to when he needed to conserve energy to make it through an entire game. Dawkins should be ready to play expanded minutes at two-guard and Curry is an excellent combo guard who should be a major part of the rotation.
While Duke might have some issues with quality depth in its frontcourt -- after the Plumlees, they'll have relatively untested sophomore
With five strong long-distance options, Duke should be insulated from cold shooting nights. And unless Krzyzewski decides to play small and start a three-guard lineup (which isn't likely), he'll be bringing Curry off the bench -- the same Seth Curry who, on that U.S. U19 team's gold-medal winning trip to New Zealand, made more threes than Butler's