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Ex-Duke players on China trip might beat current team


Mike Miller

Tough to tell which Duke team in China will be better: The 2011-12 squad or the alums.

Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday that Grant Hill, Jay Williams, Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving will be tagging along for the trip to Dubai and China, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. An earlier tweet indicated that Shane Battier also would be along for the ride, but the story didn’t mention him.

But let’s pretend Battier is going. In a game tomorrow, which starting five do you want?

  • 2011-12: Austin Rivers, Seth Curry (or Tyler Thornton, if you prefer), Michael Gbinije, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee.

  • Ex-Devils: Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, Jay Williams, Grant Hill, Shane Battier.

Tough call. Williams’ health would be the deciding factor.

ANYWAY, Duke will be in China until Aug. 26, which’ll include four games against various teams (they’ll also be on TV). The wins and losses don’t matter, really. This is all about improving before the college hoops season officially begins.

“The biggest thing hopefully will be growing together as a team and getting to know my teammates more,” Curry told the paper. “Going to a different country, that’s all you got, us guys together for two weeks. We’re going to be able to grow on the court and even more off the court and that’s going to help us grow as a family.”

These extra weeks pay off, too.

Sporting News figured that teams that traveled abroad between the 2006 and 2009 seasons boosted their win totals by about two games. That could mean an NCAA tournament berth, a spot in the Sweet 16 or even a Final Four.

Was it a coincidence that Kentucky played in Canada last summer and reached the Final Four? Put it this way: It sure didn’t hurt.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.