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Stew and Stupid Share The Same First Syllable

Oh, blah, blah, frickin' blah (that's for Ol' Roy). Stewart Mandel looks at Duke and says they're not what they used to be. He's missing the point: nothing is what is used to be.

Early entry has completely changed college basketball, which is why you see so many 6-7 centers, and the only 6-7 center who ever amounted to much was Wes Unseld.

Here's something for Mandel to chew on: Duke has adjusted to the new environment as well as anyone. Look around: Syracuse? Sat home last year. UConn? Significant swings. UNC? They really tanked under Doherty (and when Hansbrough leaves, it'll be interesting to see how things go there in terms of retaining talent). Kentucky? Indiana? Michigan State? UCLA? Arizona? Georgetown? Everyone who recruits the elite players is having or will have trouble.

For anyone who might remember, we said several years ago that schools a level below the so-called power conferences would have an advantage because they'd have experienced teams of pretty good players to go up against inexperienced teams of really good players. Schools like Butler, Gonzaga, and Drake prove the point.

Here's what Mandel missed: while Duke made their rep in the post-season, what's remarkable now is that despite the near-annual depletion of talent, despite fielding teams of freshmen and sophomores, Duke has had only one poor year - and even then, they made the tournament.

Now ask yourself this: if Duke had held onto Luol Deng, and gotten Sean Livingston to come to Durham instead of the Clippers, and Kris Humphrey's entourage hadn't wanted Duke to make sure he was guaranteed enough minutes and stats to get first-round status - if those guys were on teams with J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, do you think anyone would be writing such an inane column now?

Here's the reality: Duke is being judged against a standard set in a different environment. In today's world, where you can plan on exactly nothing, Duke is still winning 25-30 games a season. The post-season has always been a crap shoot, and it's even more so now. The reality is that Coach K is doing some of his best, most creative work in an environment he couldn't have dreamed of when he started at Duke. It's a world that disgusted Dean Smith and baffled Bob Knight, among others. Yet Krzyzewski has adapted and continues to compete with the best of them, and does it at a school unlike, say, Memphis, where he has to also consider academics. The man is threading a needle, and it's not good enough.