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Published: Thursday, 11/10/2005

Duke earns blue blood designation

When it comes to college basketball royalty, Duke is actually the king.

With a new season upon us, not much has changed as far as the top dog.

The Blue Devils are ranked No. 1 in both preseason polls.

And they are the odds-on-favorites to be crowned national champions for the fourth time under Mike Krzyzewski, who has built a dynasty in Durham that few can match.

Coach K's team is loaded with depth and desire.

The incredible inside-outside combination of J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams were the top vote-getters on the preseason All-American team.

When you add two of last year's top high school players to the mix - Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus - Duke looks dazzling.

During his 25 years at Duke, Krzyzewski has won 648 games, 66 NCAA Tournament games, coached 21 All-Americans, produced 18 first-round NBA draft picks, and led his team to 10 Final Four appearances and 10 ACC regular-season championships.

Oh yeah, his Blue Devils have been ranked in the Top 25 for 329 weeks, and in the Top 10 for 218.

It's easy to understand why Krzyzewski was the guy USA Basketball hand-picked to lead the national team in the 2006 world championships and at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The organization is looking to restore a lost sense of U.S. superiority.

Who better to do that than Coach K?

Whether it's in the locker room or the board room, he is the guy everybody wants on their team.

He is college basketball's winningest active coach, and the game's greatest ambassador.

Krzyzewski, 54, is much more than just X's and O's.

During a recent interview, he was asked to address a number of pertinent topics related to college basketball.

He was candid and concise.

On the state of college basketball: "I think the popularity is higher than it's ever been. The talent level has gone down because of all the kids that leave early. However, the competitive element has remained the same. I feel better about college basketball now than any other time in my 31 years as a head coach."

On the NBA's new minimum draft-age limit of 19: "I'm not sure that every high school kid will go to college. You have that one year now after they graduate where something else could happen. Kids could sign endorsement deals and go play in Europe, or maybe go to prep school. I just hope colleges don't bring kids in for a year, give them the easiest courses to stay eligible, and then they go to the NBA."

On keeping agents away from players: "It's almost impossible. You take all the precautions and stuff, but even that may not be good enough. It's not just the agents, it's the runners of the agents - the friends, the cousins, the sisters, the aunts, the uncles - who may not know the rules."

On the NCAA Tournament: "It's a national treasure because it excites the whole country. For a month, college basketball gets national attention, day after day. You get everyone feeling good. Everyone is looking for the underdog, a great game, a hero or an upset. That is what America is all about."

Come March, when the NCAA sorts out its elite teams, Duke will take the lead at the Big Dance.



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