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OVER THE PAST FOUR SEASONS DUKE REAPED THE BENEFITS OF predictability from guard Nolan Smith and swingman Kyle Singler. "You knew what you were going to get from those two," associate head coach Chris Collins says. "They'd combine for 40 points, double-figure rebounds and double-figure assists." But now, with last year's starting perimeter—Singler, Smith and point guard Kyrie Irving—and their 55 points per game gone and drafted, uncertainty has returned. As Collins sums it up, "We have a lot of untested commodities that need to develop."
Luckily for Duke those commodities are already far more valuable than a look at the stat sheet would suggest. While no returning Blue Devil averaged more than 9.0 points last season, few teams boasted a backcourt as deep.
Consider former Liberty transfer Seth Curry, who showed his offensive potential after Irving's toe injury pushed him into a starting role last winter. Curry, stuck on the practice squad during the 2010 national championship season due to transfer rules, averaged 13.3 points in the 12 games in which he played at least 30 minutes. This year Curry permanently takes over at the point, a position he eagerly embraces but has played only sparingly since high school. ("On our national championship team Jon Scheyer wasn't a true point guard, either," Collins notes.) Says Curry, "It's kind of refreshing getting back to the old me."
Easing the transition, and rounding out Duke's familiar three-guard attack, is a pair of 6' 4" offensive weapons. Junior Andre Dawkins became one of the most efficient scorers in the nation last year, shooting 48.1% from the field. Freshman Austin Rivers, meanwhile, is an All-America-level talent with NBA genes—he's the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Austin isn't afraid of anything out on the court," Curry says. "He's going to be a big-time playmaker for us." In fact Rivers may well be the team's best player, period, by December.
As with any freshman-laden team (the Blue Devils have five), there will be growing pains. Simply adjusting to Division I speed and feeling one another out on the court made for tough sledding this summer in Durham. "It is a work in progress, chemistrywise," Curry says. "It's been rough early. But [the struggle] is going to benefit us."
COACH Mike Krzyzewski (32nd year) 827--225 (322--137 in ACC)
ASSISTANTS Jeff Capel, Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski
2010--11 RECORD 32--5 (13--3, 2nd in ACC)