Kyle Singler could have very easily left Duke after winning the national championship last season and been a first-round pick in the NBA Draft. Instead, he chose to return for his senior season where he will be a National Player of the Year candidate and have the Blue Devils as the team to beat.
Along with Singler, senior Nolan Smith also returns to provide some invaluable experience. Smith will anchor an extremely talented and deep backcourt that will also feature highly touted freshman Kyrie Irving, Liberty transfer Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Tyler Thornton.
Smith is capable of playing either guard spot, but will start at the two alongside Irving. Like his older brother Stephen, Seth Curry is a sharpshooter who can score from anywhere on the floor. Dawkins graduated early from high school and arrived a year early at Duke last season. He should be improved as sophomore and can also stroke it from the outside. Thornton might be hard-pressed to find playing time in what is arguably the best collection of guards in the country.
Brian Zoubek was not the most talented big man in college basketball, but was effective in his role as a rebounder and someone to take up space in the middle. This year the Blue Devils will be more skilled in the frontcourt with the Plumlee brothers, Ryan Kelly, and Josh Hairston. NBA scouts love Mason Plumlee's versatility and he is expected to take a nice step in his sophomore season. Also expect to see Coach K. to use Singler at the four at times as he utilizes a three-guard lineup with his talented backcourt.
Just about everybody is picking Duke to repeat as national champions and you can understand why. They have no weaknesses, and are my pick to once again be hoisting the trophy at the end of the season.
Player to Watch: Kyrie Irving, PG
Irving arrives at Duke with incredibly high expectations as he was one of the top-ranked players in the 2010 class. He is a true point guard who knows how to distribute the basketball but is also a talented scorer when needed. Irving helped lead the U.S. U-18 team to gold at the World Championships this summer and could be a one-and-done if he is as good as advertised.