Mike Krzyzewski may not have planned for it, but he begins his 30th season in charge of Duke's basketball program with another team expected to make a run at a national title.
The No. 9 Blue Devils might not have any problems getting their 2009-10 season off to a strong start Friday night when they try to continue their dominance of UNC-Greensboro.
Krzyzewski guided Duke to a 30-7 record last season, briefly appearing as the No. 1 team in the country before winning the ACC tournament and seeing its NCAA tournament run come to an end against Villanova in the regional semifinals.
That success combined with a superb returning cast has made the Blue Devils preseason co-favorites with reigning national champion North Carolina to win the ACC.
Lasting 30 years at Duke may be a surprise to Krzyzewski, but the Hall of Fame coach appears to have a team capable of winning his fourth national title.
"There was never a 30-year plan. Early on, there was not a five-year plan - there was a weekly plan, a daily plan," said Krzyzewski, who has guided Duke to wins in 27 of 29 season openers, winning the last nine by an average of 32.8 points. "I've loved being here for this time, and I think I'll be here for a while. I don't have a 32-year plan or a 34-year plan.
"The excitement of starting here, the energy, is really good. It gets you going."
The Blue Devils' roster is constructed a bit differently this season because only two guards return from last year's rotation - junior Nolan Smith and senior Jon Scheyer.
Smith, though, is suspended for the first two games due to his participation in an unsanctioned summer league, which included overseas players and professionals.
Despite the thin backcourt, Duke is expected to continue using Scheyer and ACC preseason player of the year Kyle Singler along the perimeter to capitalize on their strong 3-point shooting.
Scheyer, who will run the point after assuming that role last season, made 38.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and averaged 14.9 points, while Singler - a junior - connected on 38.3 percent of his 3-pointers to tie Gerald Henderson with a team-leading 16.5 points per game.
Henderson left early for the NBA in the offseason.
"Just learning different ways to create shots, whether it be a point guard on me, a shooting guard, just knowing how to do that," Scheyer said. "I felt comfortable last year, but I feel really comfortable this year. I know what to do. I know where guys need to be on offense."
While Scheyer and Singler handle the outside shooting, Duke is also expected to have a presence in the paint with 6-foot-10 Miles Plumlee and senior sixth-man Lance Thomas, joining 7-1 center Brian Zoubek.
Miles' younger brother, Mason, a freshman, was also expected to add depth at forward, but he's out indefinitely after breaking his wrist Wednesday.
"We're a very tall team ... our biggest team since I've been here," Krzyzewski said. "But I think we're very athletic, and I would hope that we'll be a very good rebounding team. It'll be a very different team than we've had here for a while, in the fact that we're changing how we do our offense and some of the things we do defensively to kind of match the talents of who we have."
One thing that's not expected to change is Duke's domination of UNC-Greensboro, which went 5-25 last season with a 4-16 mark to finish last in the North Division of the Southern Conference.
The Blue Devils have won all seven meetings with the Spartans by an average of 38.3 points. The teams haven't met since Nov. 16, 2006, when Duke won 75-48 to take the fifth consecutive matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils went 16-2 against unranked teams last season, while the Spartans won once in nine matchups with a Top 25 opponent.
UNC-Greensboro returns three of its top four scorers, including guard Mikko Koivisto and forward Ben Stywall.
Koivisto, a senior, led the Spartans with averages of 12.4 points and 2.4 assists, while Stywall finished second with 11.7 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds.