Duke basketball: The Blue Devils are finally figuring it out, hopefully

Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Wendell Moore (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Duke basketball
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball team is bigger and stronger than almost every opponent, but the Blue Devils don’t always act like it. That needs to change.

A couple of months ago, before the season started, the 2021-22 Duke basketball team looked to be in rarefied air, among the most physical and imposing squads ever to play in Durham. The length, strength, and athleticism were noticeable immediately and seemed to be a major advantage for the Duke Blue Devils heading into the upcoming campaign.

This has proven to be true for the most part, but these Blue Devils should be bullies to opponents all the time, not letting smaller and less physical groups outrebound them or get second-chance points consistently.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been on the players to be less finesse and more nasty. The reasoning is because of things like this Duke basketball squad being 15th in the ACC and 335th in the country in giving up offensive rebounds.

Even though the Blue Devils are first in the conference and 13th nationally in blocks, which opens up space around the basket for offensive rebounds when Mark Williams is hunting shots, there’s really not a great excuse for this considering the make-up and athleticism of the Blue Devils, 1-8 on the roster, excluding Joey Baker.

Sorry, Joey Buckets.

Freshman inexperience and steep learning curves in the face of college-level offenses have a lot to do with it. The aspect that high-schoolers struggle with most is learning the intricate defenses created to stop their opponents, and Coach K has frequently yanked a talented frosh who forgot his assignment. Still, much of it focuses on the will and attention paid to bodying up a man when a shot goes up or covering a rotation properly when Williams or Theo John needs to step into a drive.

Duke basketball has largely survived this chink in its armor and is still third and 46th in respect to its defensive rebounds per game among conference and NCAA teams. It’s more of a self-inflicted weakness that could prove fatal in the last seconds of a meaningful game when everyone is crashing the glass expecting a miss and hoping to put it back for glory immortal. Bad habits become tendencies quickly to hungry and smart opponents.

More frustrating is Duke’s almost refusal to use its biggest strength for its own benefit. Now, let’s find out what that is and how the Blue Devils finally seem to be reversing the trend.