Duke basketball still looking for identity after Arkansas failure

Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer and guard Tyrese Proctor (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer and guard Tyrese Proctor (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball team still does not have an identity and it’s very apparent. 

The Duke basketball team dropped to 5-2 on the season after an extremely disappointing showing from the entire squad on Wednesday night against Arkansas.

The Blue Devils shot 35-percent from the field with a recorded amount of 18 missed layups (17-of-35) while shooting 27-percent from 3-point range.

Players not named Jeremy Roach and Kyle Filipowski shot a combined 8-of-34 from the floor, and that is a recipe for a loss no matter who you are playing — let alone a team as good as Arkansas while on the road.

The Razorbacks finished with 10 blocked shots, all of them at the rim and the majority of them being very easy for their defenders to make, which is more of a statement about how soft Duke was attacking the basket than it was about Arkansas’s ability to block shots.

Through seven games, there is still no sense of what Duke is trying to do offensively. They remain out of whack, mostly running side ball screens in hopes of their guards being able to turn the corner and get two feet in the paint to finish at the rim or make a play for a teammate.

Unfortunately, Jon Scheyer continues to play lineups that do not put Duke in a position for that offense to work.

The scouting report is out on Mark Mitchell and it’s getting painfully obvious. Teams are staying 10 feet away from him when he is on the perimeter, which completely takes Duke out of their offense. It stalls anything they are trying to do and again makes Duke extremely easy to guard.

Eric Musselmen said after the game that its game plan was to play off Mitchell and that forced Scheyer’s decision to take him out.

It’s very rare that a player can vastly improve his 3-point shooting during the season to the point that is needed for Mark Mitchell. At this point, there may not be a choice but to play him sparingly and only against teams where the matchup makes sense.

Arkansas’ game plan was perfect. They emphasized not to allow Duke’s guards to cross the half court while in the flow of the offense, forcing them to stay on one side of the floor and limit Duke’s opportunities to get easy baskets.

The Razorbacks did a great job of forcing Duke’s ball handlers into flat ball screens and sagging off of non-shooters, forcing them to take contested pull-up jumpers.

Duke basketball soul searching for positives

If there were any positives from the game it was that the entire Duke basketball bench was used.

The best minutes were from TJ Power, going 2-for-2 from 3-point range in the first half, which were desperately needed to get Duke above the 30-point threshold in the first half.

While Duke’s eldest player, Jeremy Roach, finished with 22 points, it was too little too late for the Blue Devils.

It’s sometimes easy to point to stats or an opponent shooting really well as to why a team loses, but that has not been the case for this Duke team. This team has lacked toughness, grit, and a sense of urgency while playing.

The entire vibe has seemed to be off this season, which is not only confusing but extremely concerning for this team’s ceiling.

The expectations were a Final Four but through seven games so far, Duke would be lucky to make the Sweet 16.

This team needs to wake up and find its identity quickly or the season could get out of hand.