We didn't realize Bret Friedlander had gone from the Fayetteville paper to the Wilmington Star News - congratulations. Here's his latest column which suggests, like some others, that Coach K has sacrificed Duke for the Olympics.Â Krzyzewski, on the other hand, has said that he thinks it benefits Duke.Â For all the talk of decline, Duke has averaged 25 wins over the last two seasons, 27 over the last three, and 26.75 over the last four.
At Duke, of course, the criticism starts immediately if they don't make the Final Four, but it's not like they're losing to Gardner-Webb and San Diego at home or anything.
Time will sort all this out, of course.Â As we've said, there are no guarantees that the U.S. will win gold, just as there are not guarantees that Duke will make the Final Four (and honestly, it's kind of nice to see people seeing it as an outside possibility).Â But we will say this.
Duke had a few issues last season, and a number of them will be minimized this year.Â The post problems will get better.Â Brian Zoubek had a lot of foot problems, but by the end of the season, he had gone from being a 7-2 guy to a basketball player, who made intelligent decisions.
He could get help from a number of people this time around:Â 6-8 Olek Czyz, who, if he can defend and rebound, will absolutely play, and 6-11 Miles Plumlee, who we understand has put on some solid muscle.Â The post roles of Lance Thomas and Kyle Singler will be minimized, which frees Singler to take on the Battier/Laetttner/Ferry role that Krzyzewski teams have always offered.
Duke will also be able to put out a backcourt which could be pretty dynamic.Â Gerald Henderson is on the verge of breaking out.Â Jon Scheyer has established himself as a force.Â Nolan Smith should improve sharply from last season. Freshman Elliott Williams is going to be a force at Duke. Marty Pocius is a very talented player who sat out last year due to an injury. And then there's Greg Paulus.
By far the least athletic of the four, Paulus has become one of our favorite Duke players.Â Why? It's simple, really.Â The guy has had some tough breaks in his career. He's taken some vicious criticism.Â But he never complains, never flinches, and never stops giving his all.
He also always tries to step up when the team needs someone to take charge.
He's going to be this team's leader, and he's going to be a good one.Â The team is going to be good, too.
Just for fun, let's turn it around.Â There is a broad assumption from some that the national team can't win gold and from others that Duke can't possibly get to the Final Four.Â But what if both things happened?Â Where would Duke be then?
On a different planet from anyone else, that's where. It could work out entirely differently, of course, but we'll take our chances.