Already looking to next year

When Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith announced they were returning to Duke after their accidental run to a national title, I set a very specific and unusual bar for attaining satisfaction with the outcome of the 2010-2011 season: if we can just make it through this year without another Duke title (this one would have been on purpose, they were the favorite), I’ll count myself relieved and we will move on to next year. In the midst of our early season struggles it was becoming even clearer that this was our primary goal, and it maintained itself despite our awesome resurgence into the collection of national title contenders.

This is what made the night Arizona whacked Duke the most glorious of the tournament. As I wrote that night in response to a friend: in the grand scheme of college basketball history you measure Final Fours and national titles, and this was a year that Duke should have had but missed badly. Each individual season eventually melds into the long running narrative of the Carolina-Duke rivalry, and thanks to Derrick Williams and company, we still lead in the most important category, 5-4.

The Kentucky loss stung badly, mostly because this team was so much fun to watch as they drastically exceeded the expectations for such a young team. But it stung a little less knowing Duke was resting safely back in Durham, and it stung less for me than a Duke title would have a week later.

This line of thought, though it sounds crazy, was validated this week when Tyler Zeller and John Henson announced they were bypassing the NBA draft. As much as this past season was Duke’s to win, next will certainly now be ours, and all of this season’s maturation was building toward it. We are likely the preseason #1 team, regardless of whether the best player in the country is playing for us or the Washington Wizards (I sincerely hope its us).This time the bar of satisfaction will again be a national title, and Duke gets relegated to secondary status in the ACC. As Luke DeCock wrote in the News and Observer, the pendulum has swung.

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