With a no-fans policy now in place, the Duke basketball players must excel in one particular area in order to have any shot at winning the ACC Tournament or advancing their season into April.
Not even I, a bigheaded fan-writer who all but perfectly predicted how the 2019-20 Duke basketball regular season would play out, have a clue as to how the Blue Devils will perform the remainder of March now that they have to play inside quiet arenas. And I’m certainly not the person to seek information from concerning COVID-19.
But I will provide my initial thoughts as to what the key will be moving forward for Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his guys, who are 25-6 overall, 15-5 in conference play, and the No. 4 seed entering their opening game at the ACC Tournament against No. 5 seed N.C. State at approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN).
First, in case you haven’t seen the news, due to concerns over the spread of novel coronavirus, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced on Wednesday that all 2020 NCAA Tournament games (March 17 through April 6) will take place “with only essential staff and limited family” in attendance.
Hours later, the ACC followed suit:
“In light of the rapidly changing landscape regarding COVID-19, the latest developments nationally from health authorities, and today’s announcement by the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, the ACC will alter the remainder of the ACC Tournament…beginning Thursday, March 12, all games will be played with only essential tournament personnel, limited school administrators and student-athlete guests, broadcast television and credentialed media members present.”
OK, so what does this require from the Blue Devils? Well, nothing, for all they need to do is continue playing the game they love. Of course, if they intend to enjoy nine more wins to finish out the season under falling confetti, then they will have to adapt to the strange environments better and quicker than their opponents.
It starts on the bench and behind the bench, as benchwarmers — as well as current Duke basketball parents such as David Robinson, Debbie Jones, Debbie K. Savarino, and Vernon Carey Sr. — will no doubt need to bring their A-games as they will represent the entire makeshift on-site fanbase.
As for on the court, communication could end up being the deciding factor both in whether Duke cuts down its 21st pair of ACC Tournament nets on Saturday and in what length of stay at the Big Dance is in store for the Blue Devils — who appear on track to receive somewhere between a No. 2 and No. 4 seed when the March Madness Selection Show airs at 6 p.m. Sunday (CBS).
Why will talking be of the utmost importance on both ends of the floor? Well, it always is, as Coach K has consistently preached across his 40-year tenure in Durham. Yet it will be even more so for the next few weeks (assuming the ride lasts that long).
With essentially no fan noise, everyone on the court will be able to hear one another with unprecedented clarity (not to mention how weird it will be for viewers at home to be able to clearly decipher what all is being said).
So not only will it be up to the players to attempt to drown out the other team’s chatter with their own, but the squad that best takes advantage of the relative ease to communicate should reap the rewards.
Yes, it could be as simple as the Blue Devils staying louder than their foes, starting with out-howling the Wolfpack.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.