Oct. 22, 2010

Courtesy of Duke Athletics

Duke is ranked No. 1 in the the USA Today/ESPN preseason men's basketball coaches poll, picking up where they left off after winning the 2009-10 NCAA National Championship.

"It is an honor that the coaches think so highly of us," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. "We have a talented team that may have an opportunity to compete for a championship. It is October and this will be a developing team. There's a lot of work to be done to get to that level. As always, our defense will be crucial to any success we have this season."

The Blue Devils begin the season ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll for the fifth time since USA Today took over the poll in the 1991-92 season. The other four times Duke was the preseason No. 1 was in 1991-92, 1998-99, 2001-02 and 2005-06. Duke received 29 of the 31 first place votes from the coaches with No. 2 Michigan State receiving the other two.

Rounding out the top 10 are No. 3 Kansas State, No. 4 Pittsburgh, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Villanova, No. 7 Kansas, No. 8 Purdue, No. 9 North Carolina and No. 10 Kentucky.

The 2010-11 Duke team returns three starters and nine letterwinners from a team that won the NCAA National Championshiop, ACC Tournament championship, shared the ACC regular season title and won the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Among the returning letterwinners are senior captains and national player of the year candidates Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, who combined to average 35.1 points per game last season. The duo leads a group that also returns brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee down low along with sophomores Andre Dawkins (G) and Ryan Kelly (F). Adding to the team's depth will be transfer guard Seth Curry, who led the nation in freshman scoring in 2008-09 as well as three freshmen Kyrie Irving (G), Josh Hairston (F) and Tyler Thornton (G).

Duke will play its first exhibition game of the season on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium against St. Augustine's.