Rebuilding isn't a word in Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's vocabulary. Of course, it shouldn't be. The Blue Devils are expected to compete for national titles each and every season, even in seasons like 2011-12, when the three best players -- including four-year veterans and 2010 national champions Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler and star freshman Kyrie Irving -- leave behind huge gaps in minutes, production and leadership.
It's not that Duke won't have talent next season. Quite the contrary. The Blue Devils boast the top-rated recruit in the country in point guard Austin Rivers, the centerpiece of a five-man recruiting class that lacks a single player ranked outside the top 11 at his respective position. Duke also returns sharpshooting guards Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, and it will have all three Plumlee brothers -- Miles, Mason and Marshall, one of the aforementioned recruits -- manning the frontcourt. Likewise, there are a handful of talented players waiting in the wings, including sophomore Josh Hairston. And what of Ryan Kelly's role as a stretch forward?
The point is, Coach K will have lots of very talented players in his lineup next season. But much of that talent is new or inexperienced. Does that mean a change in Coach K's offense? A deeper rotation? More reliance on uptempo basketball?
Interestingly enough, Coach K doesn't seem to have those answers yet, either. From the Raleigh News & Observer:
Mike Krzyzewski knows little about what kind of system Duke will run next basketball season.
Instead, the Blue Devils' coach will wait until after the team's trip to play exhibition games in China and Dubai in August to form a rotation and a system of play after losing first-team All-ACC seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler from last season's team. [...]
Krzyzewski said it will take time to figure out how to play in 2011-12. Duke has just one senior, Miles Plumlee, next season and loses 52.8 percent of its scoring off a 2010-11 team that finished 32-5. He will keep things simple on the trip to China and watch to see which players emerge as contributors and leaders before making any decisions.
"We have very good talent, and we'll have good depth," Krzyzewski said. "But we don't have anybody coming back who for a whole year, you knew he was that [key] guy. So the China trip, we'll keep it simple. We'll get to know our guys."
That is one of the great benefits of Duke's planned exhibition trips to China and Dubai. The games may be exhibitions, and they might not always be the most competitive affairs, but they will give Duke's coaches a much larger time to evaluate talent and, more importantly, the best ways to utilize that talent with something resembling coherence.
At first glance, it wouldn't be surprising if Coach K decided to speed things up in 2011-12. The Blue Devils weren't slow last season, but they weren't exactly speed demons, either. The additions of young, versatile players like Rivers, Quinn Cook, Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy could provide a dynamic all-court supplement to the spread-the-floor shooting of Curry and Dawkins.
Maybe that's just me, fan of fast basketball, projecting my hopes for maximum hoops entertainment. Given the personnel, though, it also makes sense.