If freshman point guard Kyrie Irving had been available, No. 3 Duke, the defending national champion, might not have suffered an ignominious 93-78 loss to St. John's this afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Irving suffered a toe and ankle injury on his last visit to the metro area when the Blue Devils beat Butler on Dec. 4 at the Izod Center at the Meadowlands.
Irving hasn't played since, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski confirmed after losing to the Red Storm that the freshman from West Orange, N.J. isn't expected back. The cast is coming off Irving's injured foot in the next week, but Krzyzewski said, "That triggers rehab, which takes a long time.
"He's getting better, but it's for his career. We're not looking for him to come back this season. We're looking for him to get well."
With Irving, Duke had a chance to be a great team and would have been favored to repeat as national champ. "We're not going to be the same team we were in the first eight games [with Irving]," Krzyzewski said. Surveying the national landscape, Coach K added, "There are a lot of good teams and some very good teams. There are no great teams."
At 19-2, Duke remains one of the very good teams, but the Blue Devils won't be such a heavy favorite to defend their title. St. John's, which has a chance to be a good team, made the Devils look mortal, signaling to the rest of the country what kind of NCAA Tournament it's going to be.