The truth about Duke is this was a down year. As a Duke fan I expected this. Going into the season I looked at our non-conference schedule (including Michigan State, Michigan, Kansas, and Ohio State) and was worried. Our roster was full of inconsistent shooters and average big men. In a program that thrives on upper classmen leadership, only have one senior would hurt this young team.
Our only saving grace was going to be Mike Krzyzewski and Austin Rivers. Coach K was only games away from becoming the all time winningest coach in mens college basketball and was already widely hailed as the best coach in the game. Austin Rivers was an incoming freshman sensation, expected the fill the shoes left empty by Kyrie Irving’s departure.
Krzyzewski did his part. With an inexperienced team and a tough schedule (that included 15 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament) Coach K led the Blue Devils to a 26-5 record with a 2nd place finish in the ACC behind rival North Carolina. Austin Rivers had an incredible season. He led the team in scoring (15.4 points per game) and nailed the game winning three-point basket at the buzzer to secure the Feb. 8th win at UNC.
What Coach K couldn’t do was get his team to consistently hit their open shots, pass the ball, or play defense. During the team’s 7 losses they shot 31% from three-point range and gave up 77.4 points per game. Rivers had troubles distributing the ball, finishing the year averaging 2.1 assists per game, second on the team behind Seth Curry.
Multiple Blue Devils struggled all year. The Plumlee brothers could only combine for 17 rebounds per game. Juniors Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, and Curry would seem to disappear for stretches during games and sometimes not be a factor at all. Duke was ranked 69th in the NCAA this year with 36.6 rebounds per game, 204th with 12.5 assists per game, and 78th shooting .458. Numbers like that won’t get many victories when you’re playing from behind most of the game. I have never seen a Duke team before that gave up so many leads to opponents before attempting to get back into the game.
I’ve heard people asking if Duke is on the down slide. Chris Johnson said “Duke has had a rough year” in a recent blog. Before Duke faithful step over the ledge, let’s take a few things into consideration. A 26-5 regular season is nothing to be ashamed of. Duke is one of the most decorated and storied programs in college basketball. Under Coach K Duke has won 4 championships, been to 11 final fours, had 27 NCAA tournament berths, and 12 30-win seasons. Sure we may have exited the NCAA tournament a little early this year but I will gladly take this as a “rough year” with all of the success we’ve had. And if you need to know what a rough year is, take a look at the 01-02 and 09-10 UNC teams that went a combined 28-37.
Next year Duke returns seniors Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee, and Seth Curry, along with hopeful sophomores Austin Rivers, Marshall Plumlee, and Michael Gbinije. Throw in the next freshman sensation Rasheed Sulaimon with Coach K and this team will be just fine. Also I have been very critical of Ryan Kelly all year but I expect him to have a solid senior season. His numbers have increased production in every major stat category and I see that trend continuing next year.
As for the rest of the ACC, thanks for nothing Florida State. Your basketball fans spoke up during basketball season for the first time ever, talking trash about us and the rest of the ACC. Keep things in check Seminole fans. You finished 3rd in the conference, won only your first ACC tournament title, and left the NCAA tournament in the round of 32. That’s really impressive. Plus keep quiet now until late August when your overrated football team disappoints you again. Oh wait, you just had a “rough year” when your 5th ranked team went 9-4? How about going 37-30 since 2006?
NC State fans have a lot to cheer about. Not only did their team deservedly make the field of 68, they won their opening round game and their round of 32 game. This puts them in the sweet 16 on Friday night against Kansas. A win against the Jayhawks could set up an all ACC regional final against #1 seed and rival UNC. Speaking of the Tar Heels, it was sad news for the boys in baby blue, as they learned Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in the victory against Creighton. As all of you know I hate UNC with a passion, but I never want to see any players go down to injury. Kendall Marshall is a fun player to watch and I hope he can continue to play well during the NCAA tournament.
Yes, the truth may be that my Devils were not great this year, but with our past success and our future expectations, I can ‘handle the truth’.
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