The last outing wasn’t promising for the Duke basketball team, but the Blue Devils have the pieces to quickly respond and win a championship this season.
In the immediate aftermath of Duke basketball’s 88-66 curb-stomp from NC State on Wednesday, this writer was left with two choices: let the bottle of whiskey do its job and excuse the loss, or absorb it, take a breath, and attack this with optimism.
For the first time since being a Duke basketball fan, I think I’m choosing the latter.
I would say I told you so (if you were able to read an article I wrote last week), but you don’t need to hear that from me. Anyone with eyes and five seconds of free time can see Duke Twitter isn’t the least bit surprised, and the bemoaning is in full effect.
I can’t say I blame them either, that was soul-crushing, and NC State earned the victory.
However, instead of doing the usual self-berating and soul-searching, I’ve decided I’m going to tell you folks why Duke will recover and get back to the promised land.
With the exception of a few unlucky bounces and catching a hungry team at dinner time, there are things that can and will be improved upon.
Let’s start with the underrated aspect of history being on Duke basketball’s side. I was there with my father in 2010 when Tracy Smith (not a typo, that guy was on fire in that game) put the Pack on his shoulders and led his team to an 88-74 beatdown. The mood in the building felt the exact same that night: State was the better and more confident team the moment they got off the bus that day.
All was doom and gloom from us Duke faithful, but then, a team paced by two or three great players led a mostly supporting cast to a furious wake-up.
The rest is Cameron Indoor legend, Duke went 20-2 the rest of the way and brought home the fourth banner hanging in the rafters. Oh, and the Blue Devils also lost to State at PNC Arena in 2015 and then delivered the fifth banner a short time later.
I love patterns!
The second reason is alluded to briefly above, but Duke has the right caliber players.
When you look at the recent National Championship teams, including Duke in 2015, they’re all led by two or three great players and a smattering of good ones who are consistent. The Blue Devils have part one of that formula in Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. They just need a few other guys to step up.
It doesn’t have to be the same few guys every single game. There just has to be two or three warm bodies other than the aforementioned stars to step up and hit some big shots. Think the Notre Dame game this past Saturday but only more frequent and in March.
The third and final reason is they have depth; in years past, Duke would get gassed and miss free throws late in tournament games.
In order to avoid another Michigan State situation, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski will have to shore up his rotations and find ways to get Jones a breather every now and again.
If Duke is running six-deep like last year, this would be a nail in the coffin, but the bodies are on tap this year.
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In closing, fellow Dukies, let the State fans have this one. This is always their Super Bowl, and Kevin Keatts is a good coach who knows how to get his guys ready (they’d probably prefer to get that ready for every game, but life’s not perfect).
As Coach K fixes the mistakes, the guys find themselves, and Seth Greenberg never calls a Duke game again, I’ll be seeing you guys in April for another banner.