Commentary

Poll Position: Duke's 'dilemma'

Without Kyrie Irving, Devils still nation's best team, but they have reason to worry

Originally Published: December 14, 2010
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Kyrie Irving Lance King/Icon SMINo matter how many games No. 1 Duke wins, the Blue Devils won't look as good without Kyrie Irving.

When freshman point guard Kyrie Irving went down with a toe injury Dec. 4, Duke was 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation. Today the top-ranked Blue Devils are 10-0, having blown out first Bradley and then Saint Louis at Cameron Indoor Stadium by a combined score of 167-95. Even without Irving, life goes on, right?

Certainly there are few teams in the country better equipped to lose their starting point guard. In Irving's absence, senior Nolan Smith has taken on the responsibility of running the offense and, clearly, the team has continued to score points virtually at will. By the same token sophomores Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry now figure to see more minutes, and together the two players have made 52 percent of their 3s this season. Oh, and by the way this defense is outstanding, having held opponents to 43 percent shooting on their 2s.

In other words, even without Irving, Duke is plainly a force to be reckoned with. In fact, subtract Irving from the equation and it's not inconceivable that Mike Krzyzewski could still have the best team in the country.

That doesn't mean Irving won't be missed, however. So if you're a glass-half-empty Duke fan who insists upon worrying about your top-ranked defending national champions, I've got your back. Here are the reasons you're right to be at least a little worried: