Duke basketball: Bully-ball might be back for Blue Devils

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /
1 of 4
Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

The sightings of Duke basketball have been limited, but it looks like bully-ball may be back in Durham and ready to force its way into one last title run for the legend, Coach K.

As spoiled as fans of Duke basketball are, and make no mistake, we are spoiled, the woulda-coulda-shoulda list is as long as the list of unparalleled successes. I, for one, make no qualms about this college hoop elitism, and I like to think the Duke basketball fanbase is a bit more logical than some of our different-shaded neighboring fans, in and outside the conference, when it comes to dealing with disappointment.

However, we often become victims of our own expectations due to the cruel nature of that ultimate desire, and for lack of proper eloquence, S**T happens. We have seen this firsthand and worse in the following years: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2018, and 2019.

Geez, that’s a lot of years; just read it fast, without dwelling on it, and you’ll feel better.

We could probably say 80 percent or more of Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure warranted realistic expectations of a title. “Realistic” refers to any Duke team that could reel off six straight wins with at least two of those coming against top 10-15 teams and maybe even one over an opponent in the top five.

The Duke Blue Devils routinely do this every year and usually multiple times per season. It’s really a testament to Coach K’s ability to teach, recruit, and build a team; but also in learning to adapt over the years, he has allowed Duke basketball to achieve the heights it has. Despite the overwhelming success, the Blue Devils are often viewed by outsiders as lacking a certain toughness or seen as a finesse program.

Not that it matters when Cameron Indoor Stadium routinely shows off the goods in such flattering light, fluttering down from the rafters every night the Blue Devils are splashed across a TV or computer screen. But, for me, some of Duke basketball’s most compelling teams seem to be when they were also some of the most physically gifted and could impose their will on the competition.

This Duke basketball team seems poised to do just that.

In that long list of past heartaches, though, are two of my all-time favorites, and two of the most dominant forces Duke basketball has ever seen despite their lack of NCAA titles: the 1998-99 and 2018-19 squads.

The 2021-22 iteration of Duke basketball has a lot of the same traits, and unfortunately some of the same pitfalls, as those teams. However, no one can deny how close to a national championship level both those squads felt with ’99 coming oh so close and ’19 having beaten everyone in the Final Four besides the Spartans, and eventual champ Virginia twice.

This article looks at some of the similarities with those beloved Blue Devil teams and what it means for this squad going forward. I’ll bring you down later in the follow-up piece to see about those pitfalls. I apologize in advance. Now, though, be happy; be giddy; let those expectations burst forth with unbridled belief because maybe this third time, or team with so many physical gifts, is really the charm for title No. 6.