Initial Reaction – Blue Devils Lose Ugly To Wolfpack

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 06: Marvin Bagley III
RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 06: Marvin Bagley III /

It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t pretty and it certainly didn’t end well. Duke came out unprepared, unfocused and got punched in the mouth by NC State on the road. There was an absurd amount of bad and not a whole lot of good.

Duke waltzed into NC State hoping to improve to 14-1 overall and 2-1 in ACC play. What did they get? Their teeth kicked in by the Wolfpack.

Let’s get right into it. Duke came out thinking they were going to bully NC State. Trevon Duval was talking the moment the game started and was looking good driving to the hoop. Marvin Bagley was getting his and it felt like Duke was going to weather the inevitable storm to pull out the win.

Duke’s defensive deficiencies, that’s what we’ll call them, are to the point where it looks like they’ve never played with each other. Bagley is atrocious in the pick and roll. When he switches, he looks lost as to where he’s supposed to be which lets the screener roll to the hoop for easy baskets. For as good as Wendell Carter is in the post, he constantly looks lost when Duke switches. NC State ate up Dukes man to man defense. When Duke switched to zone, they once again spent too much time ball watching and not enough time sticking to the plan.

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This team is too athletic to be caught ball watching and reacting to what the offense is doing. Tonight, they were doing too much reacting to what the Wolfpack were running on offense. They didn’t look focused whatsoever with switching, help defense or getting off screens. It was a mess and something you expect from a rec league team, not from a team with real National Championship aspirations.

This year’s team does not embody what Duke basketball is. Tonight they weren’t ready to get in the trenches with the Wolfpack. They weren’t ready for a dog fight. It’s something I’ve talked about when it comes to having this many freshman. They don’t have that killer instinct that we thought they would. Collectively, they don’t look like a team that frankly knows what it takes to win a title.

Marvin Bagley should be getting the ball in the post 85% of possessions. He’s too good to simply ignore for long stretches like he was tonight. He had 31 points on 14 shots but could have easily gone for 50 if they realized that nobody on NC State was going to stop him. What did they do when Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven were in foul trouble? Barely even look for Bagley. When you have the best player in the nation and he’s seemingly getting 30 and 10 whenever he wants to, you need to manufacture touches for him. Let him take guys off the dribble. Clear out and post him up. Duke rarely did that tonight and it cost them.

Coach K also deserves some blame. How many times this season has Duke come out against inferior opponents and dug themselves a hole? They’ve been able to claw their way out for the most part but that’s not a sustainable way to win. We’ve heard about all of the “extra practice time” that they’ve had since their killer early season schedule. All of that “extra practice time” has given up 93 points a game in ACC play including the 96 spot NC State hung on the Blue Devils heads tonight. He got out coached by first year coach Kevin Keatts. That shouldn’t happen ever and especially not in ACC play.

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Tinker with lineups, change up the defense, hold guys more accountable. There needs to be changes and they need to come fast otherwise it’s going to be another underwhelming season with an early exit come March.