Mike Krzyzewski announced early Wednesday that Kyrie Irving will miss an indefinite amount of time because of a toe injury suffered last week during Duke's win over Butler. The Hall of Fame coach then expanded on the development after the Blue Devils beat Bradley late Wednesday and said his freshman point guard "could be out a long time."
Asked if Irving could be out for the rest of the season, Krzyzewski said: "He could be. He could be."
"It's a serious injury," he added. "I can't say anything more because we are learning information, but it is serious."
The top-ranked Blue Devils are 9-0, and games against Saint Louis (Saturday), Elon (Dec. 20) and UNC-Greensboro (Dec. 29) are all that's left before they open the ACC portion of their schedule against Miami on Jan 2. In other words, rushing Irving back isn't necessary. Duke will remain undefeated even without him for a while barring a massive letdown. The first formidable road game won't come until the Blue Devils visit Florida State on Jan. 12.
So the immediate future is simple.
But can Duke's longterm goal -- i.e., a national title -- be achieved without him?
That's the question Krzyzewski doesn't want to be forced to answer but one he acknowledged he might have to late Wednesday. The McDonald's All-American was averaging 17.4 points, 5.1 assists and 3.8 rebounds through eight games, and he had established himself as a serious National Player of the Year candidate while shooting 53.2 percent from the field, 45.2 percent from 3-point range and 89.6 percent from the free throw line. Irving got 31 points last week against Michigan State. Multiple NBA scouts have told CBSSports.com that they'd take him No. 1 in June's NBA Draft.
That said, Duke can still be good without Irving.
To deny that would be wrong.
All-Americans Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler are still on the roster, you know.
But there's little debate that Irving had already transformed into the Blue Devils' best player, and how many teams in modern history could lose their best player for the season and remain on track to win a national championship? Answer: Not many. So the next 10 days will be huge for Duke and the rest of the nation in general. If tests show that rest and rehabilitation could have Irving back in late December or early January -- or anytime, really -- then Duke should remain the consensus favorite to cut nets in Houston. But if the news is more grim then things will open up, and Ohio State, Michigan State, Kansas and several other schools will suddenly have more realistic dreams of winning the NCAA tournament then they would've had otherwise.