Duke Basketball: Blue Devils Peaking at the Right Time

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17: Grayson Allen
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17: Grayson Allen /

It’s no secret how talented this Duke Basketball team was at the beginning of the season, but they just never seemed to be able to put everything together, that has now changed.

Coming into the season with four McDonalds All-Americans, an All-American Senior Captain, a McDonalds All-American sophomore who didn’t see much time the previous year, and a very unproven bench, the talent level was there for Duke but they just had to learn how to co-exist.

After downing Michigan State where Marvin Bagley III only played 10 minutes, we could all see something very special in this Duke team.

Then they went to the PK80 Tournament in Oregon where they struggled but came from behind in all three victories to win the tournament.

Before returning home, they made a pit stop at Assembly Hall in Indiana and took care of business against the Hoosiers, although it wasn’t easy. After “buy game” wins, Duke was sitting at 11-0 and people were wondering if the Blue Devils could be stopped.

Well, they were stopped in their next game against Boston College.

When you’re winning your flaws are covered up, but this is the first time the Blue Devils were exposed on the defensive end.

Duke then returned home to demolish a shorthanded Evansville team, before taking down Flordia State in a track meet 100-93. Duke still could not figure things out on the defensive side of the ball after losing to NC State 96-85.

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After winning five straight, four against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, with another comeback win squeezed in there against Miami, you just still weren’t confident about Duke in a way that you should be.

Duke then lost three out of four to Virginia, St. John’s, and North Carolina. The one win was against Notre Dame who did not have Matt Farrell or Bonzie Colson. In the latter two losses, Duke’s defense was at it’s worst.

The Blue Devils could not stop a nosebleed, and to make things worse, Marvin Bagley went down with a knee injury.

However, this may all have been a blessing in disguise for Duke.

After the loss to Carolina, Coach K had to go back to the drawing board and finally gave into the idea of being a 40-minute zone defense team.

Duke then went onto win 6 of their last 7 regular season games, the only loss coming at the buzzer to Virginia Tech. In all seven of those games, Duke did not allow more than 69 points and the first four games were played without Bagley.

Duke finally looked like they were moving their feet, communicating, and having active hands on the defensive end.

Now the problem was offense, and how to re-adjust the offense once Bagley came back. Everything came together in the second half of the regular season finale against North Carolina.

Being down 10 at halftime, Duke exploded for a 20 point turnaround in the second half, behind a dominant performance from Bagley, co-existing with the outside shooting of Grayson Allen.

The Blue Devils stayed on their roll in the first game of the ACC Tournament, blitzing Notre Dame behind Bagley’s 33 points and Allen’s 22.

Despite falling to Carolina in the ACC semifinal, you just had a feeling that Duke finally put everything together and was ready to make a run.

In the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, Duke has played their best basketball of the season.

Averaging 88 points and only allowing an average of 64.5 points, Duke is playing its best basketball, on both sides of the ball, at the perfect time.

Duke cannot be satisfied, however, the stage and the opponents will only get bigger and tougher, and the Blue Devils must be ready to accept that challenge.

If Duke keeps playing at this intensity, let’s just say there is a good chance the Blue Devils will have a memorable end to the year.