Coach K doesn't buy undefeated talk

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
9:30
AM ET
With each passing win, the talk has only gotten louder: Can Duke really do it?

The idea that the Blue Devils can make it through the 2010-11 season undefeated isn't exactly full-fledged consensus. I'm not sure a majority of fans or pundits believe it can happen. But where the notion was once ridiculous -- relegated to guessing games over who would make the earliest and silliest undefeated prediction -- it now seems at least remotely plausible. Duke has played that well in its eight wins thus far. The nonconference tests are largely over. The ACC is in a down year. The stars have seemingly aligned.

What does Coach K think about all this? Per Jason King, he remains convincingly unconvinced:
“There’s no way our team would be able do that,” Krzyzewski said last week, and it’s certainly admirable that the coach is trying to keep his team from looking too far ahead. [...] Krzyzewski pointed out that the 1976 Indiana team featured veteran players such as seniors Scott May and Quinn Buckner and junior Kent Benson. Duke, meanwhile, starts a freshman at point guard in Kyrie Irving and is relatively inexperienced in the paint.

“There aren’t teams like that anymore,” said Krzyzewski, noting that today’s top players leave college after a year or two for the NBA. “You have to have a really old team – old and talented – to be able to [go undefeated]. I’m not going to throw a game or anything like that. But they’re still kids. They still have a big learning curve.”

All due respect to Coach K, but that argument doesn't really work. In its heyday, the 1975-76 Indiana team was itself playing against other old, experienced teams, teams full of guys who might have gone pro after one year in today's game. In 2010, as Coach K says, everyone's young. But his team doesn't have to play against Benson and boys. Instead, Duke is a product of its own competitive environment, and within that environment this Duke team is in some ways just as experienced as any in the country. (In particular, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith come to mind.)

Yes, it has a young point guard, but we've seen in recent years that freshman point guards -- the right freshman point guards -- are far from a detriment to your team's success. Irving seems to fall in that category.

Maybe in absolute terms, yes, it would be better to have an older team, even relative to older competition, if you're planning on going undefeated. But in the current environment, the Blue Devils aren't precocious. They're not inexperienced. And they happen to be better than everyone else. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but it's not exactly impossible, either.

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