Duke basketball: Jon Scheyer's mistake of not trusting freshman against NC State

The Blue Devils should have put its freshman forward on the floor against the Wolfpack

Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) shoots over Duke basketball forward Sean Stewart
Mar 31, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) shoots over Duke basketball forward Sean Stewart / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a question ever since the Duke basketball team lost to NC State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament and Jon Scheyer still hasn't answered it; Where is Sean Stewart?

The seldom used freshman had his best game of the season when the Blue Devils defeated the Wolfpack in early March, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He was quick, electric, and bouncy as NC State couldn't defend him.

Stewart had five rebounds, three blocks, and two steals while Duke outscored the 'Pack by 20 points when he was on the floor in his 26 minutes. It was more minutes than Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell got in that game, who were +2 and -3, respectively.

It felt like a jumping off point for Sean Stewart and a path to being a March Madness weapon for Jon Scheyer, but it never formulated.

When the two teams met again the following week in the ACC Tournament, the Blue Devils needed an injection of life from Stewart but Scheyer never provided it.

He played just four minutes when NC State upset the Blue Devils and never returned until there were 30 seconds left in the game after the 12:30 mark of the first half. It felt like Duke could've used his energy to try and jumpstart things despite the strong play from Filipowski and Mitchell that night.

However, Scheyer would get his chance again to prove that Sean Stewart was a matchup problem for the Wolfpack as the teams met on Sunday afternoon in the Elite 8.

In the first half, Stewart played just four minutes but was on the receiving end of an alley-oop and blocked a shot. He had a jump in his legs that a lot of other players didn't have after the grueling victory over Houston just a day prior.

Duke led by six, 27-21, at halftime and Scheyer turned to the freshman in an act of desperation in the second half. He entered with 6:41 left and the Blue Devils trailing by 10 points, 53-43.

It was already too little, too late.

As good as DJ Burns is offensively, he is a defensive liability and if the Blue Devils found a way to use the athleticism of Stewart to try and alter shots on defense and drag attention away from Filipowski on offense, perhaps Duke would be heading to the Final Four instead of NC State.

It feels like a major 'what if' on the season.

What if Jon Scheyer played Sean Stewart more against NC State in the ACC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament? Would the outcomes have been any different?

The stats and the tape of the first game between the schools say yes, but the answer will never be known.