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Almost four months after Duke's 2011-12 season ended with a stunning opening-round NCAA tournament loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh, senior guard Seth Curry has an interesting take on why the Blue Devils should do better next year.
Asked by reporter Shawn Krest the biggest difference between the currest Duke team and last year's version, Curry quipped, "we like each other." Curry went on to clarify that it wasn't that the Blue Devils hated each other last season, but they "weren't close like this."
"The biggest thing is trying to be more of a family," Curry added to Blue Devil Nation. "Just get to know each other off the court. This summer we've been really hanging out a lot more and getting to know each other. It seems like everyone likes each other more this year, so it should be a fun year."
Considering Duke lost only a couple players this offseason, it isn't a giant leap to figure out why Curry might find the chemistry different this season. It seems Curry is confirming suspicions that guard Austin Rivers' cockiness and ball-stopping style of play were disruptive for the rest of his Duke teammates.
Rivers, who turned pro after his freshman season and was the No. 10 overall selection by the New Orleans Hornets, was perhaps the most polarizing college player in the nation at Duke.
He averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game and was the only Blue Devils player who could consistently get to the rim, but critics noted that he didn't seem to fit in Duke's system and seldom seemed interested in passing. He averaged more turnovers (2.3) than assists (2.1), unusual for a combo guard of his talents.
Perhaps Duke's unselfishness and team chemistry will improve with Rivers gone, but the Blue Devils are kidding themselves if they think they're better off without him.
Without Rivers, last year's squad offensively was essentially a half dozen jump shooters and two Plumlee brothers. Now they're losing Rivers and a Plumlee and gaining talented incoming freshmen Amile Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon.
It's possible for Duke to be a better team next season as Curry is intimating, but it will take more than team chemistry for that to happen. They'll need the freshmen to contribute right away, Curry to emerge as a go-to scorer and Quinn Cook to develop into a capable starting point guard who can get into the lane and set up his teammates.