Before anyone loses their mind on this, think about what I’m saying. This team is a better-built basketball team than the one one that won the 2010 NCAA championship not necessarily a more-talented or better all-around team.
As fun as the 2010 team was to watch and as close to my heart I hold that team as a fan, the fact of the matter is that team was somewhat flawed in its construction and lacked a few key cogs that this year’s team has. Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler were perhaps the best trio in the sport’s history and if you take any of those three away, the team fails.
This year’s team has much more stability but hasn’t sacrificed any of the star power. The two biggest differences between the two teams, however, are Quinn Cook and Mason Plumlee.
Plumlee, an early favorite for Player of the Year, has made leaps and bounds since his freshman campaign on both ends of the court. As a freshman he was a limited participant, playing behind Brian Zoubeck, Lance Thomas and his brother Miles.
Mason is twice the offensive player of those three combined, but does so without sacrificing the screen-setting and rebounding that made that trio so valuable. In exchanging Zoubeck for Mason, the 2012-13 squad wins in a land slide.
Where Mason’s impact is obvious, Cook’s is a bit more subtle. Smith and Scheyer split the responsibilities at the point with Scheyer’s 4.9 assists per game leading the way in terms of sharing the ball. Both gifted offensive players, neither was a pure point guard.
Cook brings a steady hand to the steering wheel of this high-powered offensive machine, posting a nearly 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. Cook also has been able to score, thus keeping up with the 2010 team in that position.
Cook’s presence has another benefit that makes this a better basketball team than the 2010 champions. With a true point guard running the team, Duke has boasted one of the most balanced offenses in college basketball with all five starters averaging double-digit points per game.
Singler, Scheyer and Smith combined to average just over 53 points per game by themselves that season with Thomas and Miles Plumlee adding just over 10 per game. This year’s starting lineup? 70.9 points per game, just over seven points more.
A deeper, more balanced team with interior scoring and a true point guard make the 2012-13 Duke basketball team a better team than the 2010 national champions. Whether or not they can turn that into a fifth national championship remains to be seen.
But at least we know they have the weapons.