Wed Dec 08 05:05pm EST
UPDATE: This post has been updated with Mike Krzyzewski's postgame comments.
If Kyrie Irving's toe injury is as severe as Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made it seem after Wednesday night's victory over Bradley, this season's national title chase suddenly looks a lot more wide open.
Krzyzewski said Irving "could be out a long time" as a result of the right toe injury the freshman point guard sustained in the second half of Duke's victory over Butler on Saturday afternoon. Irving will undergo further tests in the next week to 10 days in hopes of narrowing down the timetable for his return.
"It's a serious injury," Krzyzewski told reporters Wednesday night. "I can't say anything more because we are learning information but it is serious and whatever final decision is made will obviously be what's in his best interest. Not to save him for any period of time or whatever, but he could be out [for] a long time."
Asked whether it's possible Irving could be out the remainder of the season, Krzyzewski said, "He could be. He could be."
The picture Krzyzewski painted is a bit darker than what previous reports suggested. Sources told FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman that Irving will miss at least three to four weeks, which could have him on track to return as early as Duke's Jan. 2 ACC opener against Miami or soon afterward.
If Irving only misses a month, the injury is something Duke should easily overcome given how tissue-soft the Blue Devils' December schedule is. The Blue Devils' remaining three games between now and the start of ACC play are against Saint Louis, Elon and UNC Greensboro.
If Krzyzewski's worst-case scenario comes true and Irving misses the rest of the season, this injury approaches or even surpasses the significance of Purdue forward Robbie Hummel's season-ending knee injury. Duke is a clear national title favorite with Irving in its lineup, but the Blue Devils fall back to the pack without their elite freshman point guard.
"When a great player gets injured and can't play, it changes everything," Krzyzewski said. "Hopefully we will get him back but we don't know when."
Sophomore Andre Dawkins will likely take Irving's spot in the starting lineup, though reserve guard Seth Curry will likely also see his role increase. Irving, who is wearing a walking boot, had been averaging 17.4 points per game and shooting 53 percent from the floor prior to the injury.
The biggest fear for the Blue Devils should be if Irving comes back too soon and reaggravates the injury to the point where it becomes a season-long issue.
Even if he has to miss a few ACC games and Duke suffers an unexpected loss or two, the Blue Devils would be wise to err on the side of caution.