OK, so Duke will be good, too

April, 20, 2010
4/20/10
9:51
AM ET
Yesterday, I devoted a little time to hammering home the fact that with Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas back for their senior seasons in 2010-11, the Michigan State Spartans were indeed going to be a very good basketball team in the coming year. Michigan State is the prohibitive favorite to win the title. That didn't change in a day. But another team's chance of unseating them just got a whole lot better.

That team is Duke, and the reason for that adjustment is Kyle Singler's decision late Monday night to return for his senior season.

There isn't much mystery here: Singler is one of the country's best players -- he'll be a first-team preseason All-American and a player of the year candidate throughout the year -- coming off a sublime contribution to a national title in 2009-10. Singler's decision to stay in college makes Duke a legitimate contender to repeat its national title bid even without guard Jon Scheyer and center Brian Zoubek. Duke will still trot out Nolan Smith, the Brothers Plumlee (yes, I vastly prefer to call them the "Brothers Plumlee"), sophomore sharpshooter Andre Dawkins, Liberty transfer Seth Curry (brother of Stephen) and star freshman recruit Kyrie Irving, the No. 3 player in ESPNU's Class of 2010. Irving could start in Scheyer's place and have an immediate impact on Duke in much the same way as Singler did when he arrived at the school. The only difference is that Irving may not have to wait three years to win a title.

Throw in the rest of Duke's uber-talented recruiting class and the reserve of talent already on Coach K's bench, and the 2010-11 Blue Devils begin to look a little like the vintage teams of Duke's past. Last season's squad was not one of those teams. Maybe that title was a bonus. Maybe this is when the fun the really starts.

As for Singler, well, Jay Bilas (Insider) says it best today: Singler isn't turning his back on anything significant from the NBA because it's unlikely his draft status will fluctuate much from this April to next. As Bilas writes, the NBA has a good feel for Singler's abilities at this point. The ceiling is relatively low, but the floor is relatively high. If Singler returns and plays well (and, goodness willing, doesn't injure himself) he could probably sneak into the lottery in what would theoretically be a watered-down 2011 draft. For now, though, Singler isn't turning down the lottery or guaranteed money. This decision still qualifies as slightly surprising. But mind-blowing? Not at all.

In any case, get ready, Duke fans. You too, Michigan State. Your Final Fours in 2009-10 were nice, sure, but they were the extra french fries in the bottom of a greasy fast food bag. The real meal begins now.

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