There's no need for sympathy for these devils.

Duke basketball looks simply unstoppable right now. Wednesday night's 79-73 victory over No. 20 North Carolina would be reason enough to celebrate in Durham, but the defending NCAA champions have perhaps a more broad reason to cheer: they might just be the favorites to win it all again.

The prospects of repeating are always difficult and there are several teams with plenty of upside, but observing how the Blue Devils have dismantled opponents lately should cause other programs with title hopes to be concerned.

For many programs, losing perhaps the future top pick in the upcoming NBA Draft for the season with an injury would mean plummeting in the standings and thoughts about what could have been.

It seems it's been the opposite for Duke. Losing star freshman point guard Kyrie Irving has possibly made the team stronger.

Duke has won nine-of-10 games in the ACC, and by a margin of more than 15 points per game. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's squad only have two losses all season, and there still remains hope that star Irving may be back in action sometime this season, or at least during the tournament.

Even without Irving, consider last night's performance by combo guard Nolan Smith. The senior shot 13-for-23 from the field against a Tar Heels team that was aware of his hot streak, but just couldn't slow him down.

With the exception of an uncharacteristically poor showing at home against Bradley, Smith has been almost unguardable at times this season, and has been particularly effective since the start of 2011. Smith's lowest scoring output since the start of January has been 18 points, and since the Bradley game, he's averaged nearly 25 points in the last 15 games.

Not only does Krzyzewski have veteran leadership in Smith, who might now find himself in the running for Player of the Year honors, he also has another senior, Kyle Singler, who continues to provide perimeter scoring.

Granted, it's early. As good as Duke has been playing, they are certainly not guaranteed of gaining a coveted No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State and Pittsburgh have shown they deserve to be in the title picture. Kemba Walker of Connecticut has been particularly strong this season, and is having the type of year where he could lead the Wildcats to the Final Four.

Other schools such as Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina, and San Diego State, all have the talent and the chemistry to make deep runs in the tournament, and Butler remains another program that has proven they deserve to be taken seriously after their performance last season when they reached the Final and gave Duke a hard-earned victory.

It's always a difficult task to repeat, and Duke is by no means an unstoppable force.

But if you're Coach K, you have to be pleased with the results you've seen thus far.