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|Blue Devils well-fortified|
Monique Currie's return for her senior season means that Duke should have as good a chance as any team to win the NCAA title next year. She brings back her big scoring punch, plus the Blue Devils' post game led by Mistie Williams, Alison Bales and Chante Black comes back intact and should be even better.
Duke's deep backcourt also will feature Lindsey Harding, returning after sitting out this season (suspension for violation of team rules). Wanisha Smith is more experienced. Emily Waner will be eligible after a transfer year, and her sister, Abby, comes in as a blue-chip freshman. Sharpshooter Jessica Foley is also back.
The Blue Devils' only loss, in fact, is 6-2 post player Wynter Whitley. Currie will benefit from more seasoning before entering the WNBA in 2006.
Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage. E-mail her at email@example.com.
The All-American guard announced Wednesday she will return for her final season, bypassing opportunities in professional basketball for one more year with the Blue Devils.
Because she was a fourth-year junior, Currie was eligible for the WNBA draft, and she put off her decision until after she led undermanned Duke to the final eight. She averaged 17.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 assists on a team that played most of the year with only eight players.
The Blue Devils (31-5) lost 59-49 to LSU in the Chattanooga Regional final. Despite a limited roster, they reached No. 1 in January the third straight year that's happened and won at least 30 games for the fifth season in a row.
With Currie coming back, Duke should have little trouble extending both of those streaks. Each of the five starters return along with one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Point guard Lindsey Harding, who was suspended for all 36 games last season for violating team rules, will come back as well.
She was a starter in 2003-04.
Currie sat out what would have been her sophomore year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, which she sustained in the opening minute of Duke's first exhibition game. She bounced back to help the Blue Devils win their fifth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title, but they failed to extend that streak this season.
North Carolina completed a three-game season sweep of Duke with an easy victory in tournament final after the teams tied for first
during the regular season.