With the Midnight Madness exciting fans, players and recruits across the nation, it’s time to preview some of the best college teams for the 2010-11 season. The key to having a successful team is having the perfect blend of athleticism, fundamentals and chemistry. We will be breaking down many of the top teams in the coming weeks. The first profile is on Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils.
Typically, when one thinks of a Duke team, they think of a team full of good basketball players, not elite athletes. Coach K, however, is underrated at recruiting good athletes. This year’s team features some of the better athletes in the country in Mason Plumlee, Kyrie Irving, Andre Dawkins and Nolan Smith. This team should have no problem hanging with the athletics teams such as Michigan State, North Carolina and NC State. They aren’t known for their athleticism, but it’s yet another reason why many experts pick Duke to repeat for the national title.
Duke almost never struggles in this category. Coach K is of the finest X’s and O’s coaches in the business. He makes sure to recruit players with high basketball IQ’s (i.e Austin Rivers). They will miss Jon Scheyer’s sharp shooting, but Kyle Singler should have no problem picking up the slack. In Singler’s last 15 games this past season, he shot 42 percent from three while recording four double-doubles. This kind of versatility is rare which is why Singler will be one of the best players in the nation this year. In terms of shooting, they’ve also added the best shooting transfer in the country in Seth Curry. Curry averaged 20 points per game at Liberty and if he shoots anything like his brother, opposing defenses will have fits. They have two proven floor generals in Smith and Irving. The only complaints would have to be about the low-post scoring from their big men, but it’s hard to complain when you have all of the talent on this roster.
Seniors Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and Scheyer are gone, so Duke will look to Singler and Smith to take on the primary leadership roles. While both undoubtedly have the talent to be leaders, they will need to lead by example and stay consistent. Their biggest issue, however, is what I like to call a “good problem.” Duke has four very talented guards in Smith, Irving, Curry and Dawkins that could be stars on any other college team. Unfortunately, many of them will need to step down and play a certain role within the system. One of the keys to a championship team is making sure everyone plays their role. Fortunately, Coach K has dealt with this situation recently on the USA basketball team. There shouldn’t be any problems, but it may be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Ryan Kelly is a former McDonald’s All-American who did not live up to expectations last season. Part of the reason was that he played behind four different big men. This year, Kelly will likely be the first big man off of the bench and will play the same role that the Plumlee brothers played last year – that of an energy guy. While he isn’t a traditional big man (he’s in the Euro mold), Kelly can help out in other ways. His smooth jump shot can spread the floor for teammates to penetrate. He can also run the floor extremely well when Duke wants to push the tempo. The key will be for Kelly to toughen up and to start living up to the star potential he was once labeled with.
There’s a reason why this team is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation: they have nearly the perfect blend of youth, experience, athleticism and fundamentals on one team. Under one of the most successful coaches in NCAA history, Duke has no excuse not to win the national championship. Anything less and it will be labeled a disappointing season.
What do you think?
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