I don't think anyone will argue with me if I say Duke has one of the best basketball programs in the country.
But over the last few seasons, Coach K's bunch has not been as dominant as they were in the 90's. Since 2001, the Blue Devils have made it past the Sweet Sixteen just once, a 2004 run to the Final Four. They have reached the tournament every season with a smattering of ACC regular season and conference championships thrown in there, which would be a great run for just about any program in the country.
But we are talking about Duke.
Expectations are high down in Durham.
The reason why the Blue Devils haven't been the same Blue Devils is a tough question to answer. Have they had a dominant play maker in their back court since Jason Williams left? Are their stars too soft to handle the pressure of playing in March? Do they rely too much on the three? Does the team break down by the end of the season?
The bottom line is that Duke just hasn't been getting the same caliber of talent into their program of late. Instead of landing a Christian Laettner, they get a Josh McRoberts. Instead of Jason Williams, its Jon Scheyer. Elton Brand is now Lance Thomas.
I don't mean to be speaking ill of the current Dukies, because these are still kids that are playing for a team that wins 25-plus games a year in the ACC. That is very impressive. But Thomas, Scheyer, and McRoberts are not going to be making NBA all-star teams. And as we have said time and time again, that NBA ready talent is what you need to win titles in college.
So is the issue recruiting?
It seems to be a fair argument, as Coach K has just missed on quite a few big time recruits over the last couple of summers. Patrick Patterson, Greg Monroe, John Wall, and Kenny Boynton are just a few of the big names that flirted heavily with the idea of playing for Coach K.
Imagine a starting line-up of those four and Kyle Singler.
But things may be looking up for the Blue Devils.
Kyrie Irving is a consensus top 10 recruit in the class of 2010 (9th by Rivals, 6th by ESPN, 5th by Scout). For most of the summer, it was believed that Indiana and Duke were the two leaders to land his services. But last week, Irving announced that he would not be taking an official visit in Bloomington, putting the Blue Devils squarely in the drivers seat according to most media outlets.
Irving's official visit to Duke over the weekend only added fuel to the fire. Adam Zagoria reported yesterday that the trip was an overwhelming success as the Crazies were out in full force. Irving raved about his trip on Twitter, and if Justin Young or Jeff Goodman is to be believed, a commitment is imminent.
But there's more.
Most believe that Harrison Barnes, who is arguably the best player in the class of 2010 (1st by Scout, 1st by ESPN, 2nd by Rivals), has favored Duke for a while (he takes his official visit there on October 23rd), but that may have changed after his trip to see the UNC alumni game.
Austin Rivers, Doc's son and Jeremiah's brother, is a top ten recruit in the class of 2011 and has long been committed to Florida. But he recently took a trip to the Duke campus, and some believe he may now be choosing between the two schools.
And do I need to mention that Irving's teammate at St. Patrick's in Michael Gilchrist, a 2011 recruit that may actually be the best player in the country.
While it may be all speculation right now, if Coach K can finally land two or three of these kids, would any be surprised to see the Devils celebrating in Houston in 2011?