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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / July 12.
  • Boeheim Says Duke Still the Team to Beat

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    NEWARK, N.J. — Kyrie Irving may be on the shelf with a toe injury, but Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says the Blue Devils are still the team to beat.

    “Duke, to me, without Kyrie are just slightly better than everybody else,” Boeheim said after the No. 4 Orange improved to 16-0 Saturday with a 61-56 win at Seton Hall.

    “Maybe even a little better than slightly better. With him, obviously, they were clearly in my mind the best team. But I’m not sure they’re still not the best team.”

    Irving, the rookie sensation from West Orange, N.J., has been out since injuring his right big toe in a Dec. 4 win over Butler at the Izod Center.

    Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Wednesday that Irving may not need surgery.

    “He’s not ready to play,” Krzyzewski told reporters. “But do they continue to do the non-surgical [route]? I think that’s where it’s going to go. [The doctors] see some improvement there.”

    After performing a CT scan and an MRI last week, Irving’s doctors were slated to have a conference call to discuss the results, according to the Herald-Sun of Durham, N.C.

    Krzyzewski said he couldn’t rule out surgery until after the conference call.

    “I can’t tell you that right now because I haven’t talked to the doctors,” he said.

    In the meantime, No. 1 Duke (14-0) marches on undefeated heading into Sunday’s game with Maryland.

    “All that happens is that Nolan Smith was getting 14 points a game with Kyrie there,” said Boeheim, who is second to Coach K on the active career victories list. “Now he’s getting 25. As long as you have a player like that, even though Kyrie’s a great player, it really doesn’t hurt you as much.

    “It’s when you don’t have a player, and you lose a guy like that.”

    Smith, a senior guard, scored a career-high 33 points in Wednesday’s 85-64 win over UAB. Smith is averaging 26 points over his last five games while shooting 62 percent (45 of 73) overall and 63 percent (12 of 19) from 3-point range.

    “They actually can probably score just as well without [Irving],” Boeheim said. “And defensively they’re probably just as good. That might sound silly to say because he probably was on his way to being certainly the best freshman in the country, maybe him and the big kid at Ohio State [Jared Sullinger]. But maybe one of the best players in the country.”

    Syracuse, which visits St. John’s at Madison Square Garden Wednesday, is off to its best since the 1999-2000 season yet Boeheim said he thinks only the top three teams are for real right now.

    “I think Duke’s still the team to beat,” he said. “Obviously, Ohio State looks good and Kansas looks good. After that I don’t like anybody. We’ll see what happens. Somebody’s going to emerge, hopefully.”
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    (Photos courtesy Herald-Sun & Duke Athletics)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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