NCAA Sweet 16 Previews: Duke’s Kyle Singler Believes Duke Has “The Team to Win Another Championship”

March 23, 2011 – 7:30 am by Eric Schmoldt

Following the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, one No. 1 seed has already been sent home, but it wasn’t the defending champion Duke. The Blue Devils, the top seed in the West, throttled Hampton in its first game, then held off a late surge by Michigan to win by two points on Sunday. The talk of the opening week for Duke was the return of highly touted freshman Kyrie Irving, who missed the majority of the season with a foot injury. Irving played about 20 minutes in both games and scored in double figures each time. He even made the game-winning shot against Michigan. With the prominent youngster back in the lineup, exactly how much does that bolster the defending national champions? Quite a bit, at least in the eyes of Kyle Singler. Duke has perhaps the toughest road left of any top seed, with the No. 2, 3 and 5 seeds all left in the region. The Blue Devils need to get by Arizona, then San Diego State or Connecticut to make it back to the Final Four.

Kyle Singler joined ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt to discuss coming back for his senior season, how he has zero regrets about his decisions and more importantly won’t later in life, how he and fellow senior Nolan Smith talked about repeating as national champs, playing for Coach K, what it was like to get Irving back from injury for the title defense run, and how taxing it is to play through a season with the target on their backs as defending champs.

Given that he could have opted to enter the NBA Draft, what has his senior year been like?:

“It’s been great. My experience at Duke has been kind of everything that I expected. … I did have the option to leave and do something else, but I really wanted to come back and do things that I probably would’ve regretted if I left.”

Has he made sure to soak Senior Night and final memories in?:

“Yeah, those are the moments I did want to experience, the reasons why I came back to school. I felt that, just being a part of Duke, I just really wanted to experience Senior Night, experience my last games, my last moments.”

Have he and Nolan Smith spoken about leaving as back-to-back champions?:

“Of course. Whenever we take the court as a team, our main objective is to win a basketball game. Now that we’re in the tournament, I think we’re in a good spot as a team. We’re playing well. I think winning championships really marks you as a basketball player and just as a sports person. I think we have the team to win another championship.”

Is there a moment or story with Coach K that we might not know but will stick with him?:

“There’s definitely a lot of instances where coaches taught me things, but I think the one thing that I’ve learned from him is Coach prepares for each game like it’s a national championship game. Just his work ethic and the way he prepares for games is something I really respect of him.”

What was it like to get Kyrie Irving back this late in the season?:

“It’s really not that difficult because Kyrie was with us in the beginning of the season and he went through the preseason with us. … Roles, they’re not getting changed much, but with a player like Kyrie and the things that he can do on the basketball court … he’s not going to hurt our team. He’s only going to help.”

How much energy does it take to go through a season where the bull’s-eye is on the back due to being the defending champ?:

“It definitely takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of focus. It kind of just shows Coach’s level of leadership and just his preparation that he makes us understand the value of each game. … I’ve kind of grown up with that my whole life. … I think it’s something our guys are used to.”

Listen to Kyle Singler on ESPN Radio here (Interview starts at 34:00)

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