Rick Pitino, who coached one of the greatest college basketball teams ever in the 1995-96 Kentucky Wildcats, says this year's incarnation of the Duke Blue Devils could rival his historic club.
That Kentucky club featured eight future NBA players and had Nazr Mohamed as its 13th man.
"They've got a fifth-year guy (Amile Jefferson) who's a terrific rebounder and basketball player and they've got great shooting, great coaching and a great system," Pitino told Jon Rothstein on his Podcast. "They've got it all. They're very deep and they've got two of the best in Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles - the one-and-two ranked high school players in the nation. They're as good of a team as I've seen in the modern era."
Duke is the preseason No. 1 in most polls and is the Vegas pick to cut down the nets in April in Glendale, Arizona.
Of course, later Monday Duke announced that the 6-foot-10 Giles would miss six weeks after undergoing his third knee surgery. It remains unclear when Giles -- a projected top-5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft -- will debut and how much he will play this season.
Meantime, former Duke and current Knicks big man Marshall Plumlee told me that this Duke team could be "special." Plumlee worked out this summer with the Blue Devils, including Giles and Tatum.
"They're going to be something special and I think the potential to be one of the very special Duke teams and that says something because there have been so many really special Duke teams so I couldn't be more excited for the Duke program," he said at Knicks training camp at West Point. "I'm proud of the position they put themselves in this season."
Asked specifically what he saw from Giles and Tatum, Plumlee said: "I think you see guys that are not only extremely talented and athletic but they're also mature for their age, mature for their position and that goes a long way at Duke because Coach K likes smart, intelligent players . I think they're going to show that they're all those things."
Speaking of Kentucky, much has been made of the idea that Coach K has taken a page out of John Calipari's book by recruiting more one-and-done-type players in recent years such as Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones and Brandon Ingram
"I never got the impression that Coach specifically went after one-and-dones, he just tries to get the best pieces to make the best team for each coming year," Plumlee said. "That being said, he's never going to compromise our attitude and Duke's standards so if a guy's talented enough but they don't have a good attitude he won't recruit him. He's doing what he's always done but it just so happens lately that there've been a lot of guys with great attitudes that are highly talented that want to be part of the Duke program."
Plumlee also believes Duke understands it can win a national championship this season.
"Yeah, just as they view every year as a chance to win a championship but this year they just have so much depth it's really exciting for them," Plumlee said. "They're probably in one of the more exciting positions starting a season than I can think of in recent memory."