Monday, January 3, 2011

Duke's win over Miami is a preview of this Devils team

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made some important points on his television show Sunday afternoon. Speaking of Kyrie Irving, he noted that the Blue Devils had to be thinking about the team they are without him, not the team they could be with him. If you heard it, it was clear Coach K isn't expecting Irving back any time soon, if at all.

So Sunday night's game with Miami was a great preview of what this Duke team is trying to be. The Hurricanes aren't great but they are athletic and tenacious on defense. The Blue Devils are clearly more skilled, but the gap between Duke and the rest of a weakened ACC isn't the gulf that it was with Irving. As Krzyzewski pointed out in his show, Seth Curry and others will have expanded roles now, on offense and on defense.

Nolan Smith remains a star, as he showed in Duke's 74-63 win in Cameron. Smith scored 28 points, but 13 game in a first-half stretch that was the difference in the game. Smith has a great 3-point shot, even from well behind the college arc, and he simply blew Miami out in that stretch.

But how Duke develops beyond the established pair of Smith and Kyle Singler will be fascinating. Curry looked overmatched on defense Sunday. Ryan Kelly from Raleigh looks much stronger than a year ago and could start to become more of a factor on offense. Same for Andre Dawkins. What's evolving is more of a halfcourt team that plays rugged defense and depends less on fast breaks.

That's not a bad formula at all - Duke rode it to a national title last year. But the Devils had three playmakers in 2010, with Jon Scheyer the third. Right now, it's Smith and Singler - and a player to be named with Irving on the bench.

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