The Duke basketball players have a chance to change the narrative around the team.
Every team is remembered for something that happens over the course of the season. Unfortunately for the Duke basketball players, that something came on Saturday evening.
After the Blue Devils lost to rival North Carolina in the final home game under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, this Duke team will be known as the one that lost Coach K’s final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium to the archival Tar Heels.
Krzyzewski told the crowd after the loss that the performance was “unacceptable” but that the “season has been very acceptable.”
Sure, that might be true as the regular season, Saturday notwithstanding, has been a success. But it doesn’t mean much.
Duke plays for postseason championships, not regular-season championships.
This batch of Blue Devils has to play themselves out of that recognition, and they have the opportunity. Unless Duke wins the ACC and/or the NCAA Tournament, this team will be always remembered for losing on Saturday.
It will not be remembered for potentially having five first-round NBA Draft picks on its roster.
It will not be remembered for having the ACC Freshman of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year on its roster.
It will not even be remembered for winning by 20 points in the Dean Dome earlier in the season or other wins against Kentucky and Gonzaga.
This team will be remembered for losing 94-81 in the final home game in the career of Mike Krzyzewski to North Carolina.
Duke basketball fate not solely in its control
The sting of Mike Krzyzewski losing his final home game against North Carolina would be significantly lessened if the Blue Devils ran the table for the rest of the season, but there is one scenario in which no one would vividly remember the events of Saturday at all.
There is a strong possibility that Duke and North Carolina could meet in Brooklyn, New York for the ACC Tournament Championship on Saturday night, one week after the Tar Heels spoiled the special night in Durham.
A win in that game and nearly all is forgiven.
An NCAA Tournament Championship and this team is remembered as an iconic Duke team.
If the better seeds advance, North Carolina’s path to the ACC Tournament Championship would include Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
Duke’s path would include Florida State and Miami (FL).
A lot of basketball is left to be played, but the Blue Devils have a chance to change the narrative around this year’s edition of the team.
The story is yet to be finished.