You know basketball season is hitting its stride when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is jousting with the media over treatment of the Blue Devils.
Following Duke's 68-59 defeat of Connecticut in the NIT Season Tip-Off final Friday, Krzyzewski was asked if the win answered ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb's questioning of the Blue Devils' athletic ability. Krzyzewski showed his sarcastic wit with his response.
"He should be an expert on alarmingly non-athletic," Krzyzewski said of Gottlieb, formerly a pass-first point guard for Oklahoma State. "So I'll have to take a look at that a little bit closer because it comes from an expert who actually knows what it feels like to be alarmingly non-athletic.
"Actually we're pretty athletic; we're just not as athletic as Connecticut. (Kyle) Singler is a really good athlete. Lance (Thomas), Miles (Plumlee). Jon (Scheyer) is not leaping tall buildings with a single (bound), but he's a really good athlete. But I wouldn't call us like, this athletic team, but we're not amazingly non-athletic. And I would rather not get into a discussion with Doug because I have respect of his stature and he should have his arguments with people of similar stature. That would be a good thing."
Although Krzyzewski hit that softball question out of the park, Gottlieb made a legitimate point. He just overstated it a bit. Because of the stature of its program and coach, Duke has an overwhelming recruiting advantage over most schools.
So it's surprising to see that schools in the ACC such as Clemson and Florida State have a collection of guys who probably move their feet more quickly and jump higher than Duke's.
It's true that Scheyer and Brian Zoubek aren't going to win many foot races with other guys who play their position in the ACC. Also, Singler doesn't move laterally as fast as a lot of the small forwards he will guard this season.
But Nolan Smith and Miles Plumlee are as athletic as anybody else at their positions. Lance Thomas has the size and quickness to guard just about any position on the floor, and Mason Plumlee will add to Duke's athletic ability at center when he returns to the lineup.
So the Blue Devils are hardly a bunch of stiffs.
The most important thing about Duke, though, is that it has three players in Singler, Scheyer and Smith who all are among the best players at their respective positions in college basketball.
Singler and Scheyer will never throw down a 360-degree dunk on a breakaway, but they're highly skilled and smart and always play hard. Yes, Duke could struggle when it plays a freakishly athletic opponent like Kansas or Kentucky.
But any team would. On most nights, the Blue Devils will have enough athletic ability to win as they head into Wednesday night's game at Wisconsin in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a 6-0 record.