Jon Scheyer blasts constant criticism of Duke basketball team after win over Houston

The Blue Devil head coach defended his players at the podium

Mar 28, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA;  Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer speaks to the media
Mar 28, 2024; Dallas, TX, USA; Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer speaks to the media / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke basketball team has been subject to both local and national criticism this season.

At the time, it felt warranted. The Blue Devils were called soft and had a serious lack of toughness, which was clearly seen in losses against North Carolina during the regular season.

However, that has changed. This team looks vastly different from the one that played the majority of the regular season and it all started in the Round of 64 during the NCAA Tournament.

Duke fended off a feisty Vermont squad late in the second half and then dominated a James Madison team thats entire game plan was to out-physical the Blue Devils. It carried over to the Sweet 16 against No. 1 seed Houston, who has built its program on physicality and toughness.

"You don't have to apologize for losing in the tournament. Every team loses except one," Jon Scheyer said after his team landed a 54-51 victory on Friday night.

"Look, we started four freshmen last year, and this year these guys -- Jeremy [Roach] obviously has been through it -- this is only their second time [in the NCAA Tournament]."

Duke was overwhelmed by the physicality of Tennessee last season in the NCAA Tournament, despite not having Mark Mitchell. It showed it learned from the experience with 16 points from Kyle Filipowski and 14 points from Roach against the Cougars.

"I think for us some of the criticism about toughness or whatever, try being at Duke as a freshman and sophomore and battling your ass off in the tournament and then talk to me about being tough," Scheyer continued.

"For me, these guys have shown every step of the way how tough they are mentally, physically."

The Blue Devils will hope to show that same toughness once again in the Elite Eight on Sunday afternoon (5:05 p.m. ET, CBS) against North Carolina State.