Duke Basketball: What Can Blue Devils Learn From Villanova

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

With Villanova’s win over Michigan last night in the National Championship game, they firmly cemented themselves as one of the blue blood programs in college basketball. Two championships in three years is no fluke. They’re a powerhouse again. So what can the Blue Devils take from Jay Wright and the Wildcats to improve their team?

We see it all the time in sports. A team wins the championship with a certain type of team and it creates a trickle down effect into the rest of the sport as teams try to retool to beat the champs. It should be no different for Duke as they look to reclaim their throne atop the college basketball ranks. Jay Wright has created a monster in building this Villanova team to the point it’s gotten to. Here are some aspects the Blue Devils can learn from the Wildcats.

Depth. Depth. Depth. 

Duke has never really gone more than seven or eight guys deep max under Coach K. It’s clearly worked out for the better but we saw in this years tournament that they were really only a six man deep team. Villanova went seven deep in the championship game and the difference between them and Duke was that they get scoring from their bench. The Final Four’s MOP was Donte DiVincenzo, who had 15 points against Kansas before dropping 31 points agains Michigan while coming off the bench. Before his Final Four masterpiece, he was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year.

Coach K only goes to his bench when he needs to give guys a rest or someones in foul trouble. If he could move to more a balanced team with actual threats off the bench, the Blue Devils would have more success come tournament time.

Recruit For Fit, Not For All The Five Stars

We saw this past season that having the best recruits didn’t necessarily mean Duke had the beast team. Jay Wright has recruited players not only of high caliber but more importantly, of perfect fit for the type of team he wants to run. This rendition of Villanova was tough, athletic and could shoot the lights out. Jay Wright recruited those type of guys with the intention that this sort of team would win him a National Championship.

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Krzyzewski has shown over the past years that he can get whatever recruit he wants. However, the teams that won championships were the perfect renditions of guys buying into the Duke way and fitting that persona before they even stepped foot on the floor. I’m not saying having the top three recruits is a bad thing but if they don’t win a championship this next season (the season literally just ended) that it’s time to worry but it might be time to move towards more fit instead of straight prestige.

Trust Your Guys

This one is very simple. Jay Wright built a team of guys that had the confidence to shoot deep threes but also gave them a long enough leash to do so. A majority of coaches will pull players because they took a deep three that wasn’t in their definition of a “good shot”. Wright let his guys chuck because he knew A) they could make them and B) they could miss a few and the offense wouldn’t suffer.

Coach K should adopt this method. Let the basketball players play. I’d rather have a team with irrational confidence than a team who plays underneath this cloud that they could get pulled if they make a bad play. This might contradict the previous point but they don’t need to be on extreme ends of the spectrum.

Offense Wins Championships In College Basketball

Duke suffered against Kansas because their defense couldn’t get a stop. Their offense was also stagnant at points and it happened a good amount throughout the season. We harped so much on Dukes defensive woes but a less talked about point was the teams offense shutting down at points in games. Long stretches without scoring because the ball just died. Villanova did a great job of picking up hockey assists and keeping the ball moving.

Defense shouldn’t be ignored. It’s fairly obvious the Blue Devils need a massive improvement in defense heading into next season. The offense also needs to be retooled with most likely a whole new starting five coming in.

Duke doesn’t need to follow these tips to an exact point. It’s all about incorporating concepts and themes into your system. Is Coach K too stubborn to change his ways? If he wants to win, he’ll have to be open to change. We saw a glimpse with him switching primarily to a zone this season. The games the game, and todays game is a copycat league.