Whats wrong with Duke? Nothing new

Tough scheduling, slow team development plaguing Blue Devils

Michael Thomas Shroyer—USA Today Sports
Dec 31

DURHAM — news may not have reached the tents popping up in Krzyzewskiville, but Duke’s season is apparently over.The Blue Devils, heading into the weekend, lost two straight to fall to 2-3 in the ACC. They’ve plunged 11 spots in the AP poll, to 18. The team has no point guard and is getting buried under an avalanche of turnovers. When Duke manages to avoid losing the ball, there’s too much one-on-one play, led by Jayson Tatum, instead of running an offense. And then there’s the Grayson Allen saga, which has been a season-long distraction.Things haven’t been this bad in Durham since, well, last year.If you remember way back when, Duke lost three straight games early in the ACC season, dropping to 3-3, and then 4-4.Then there was the national championship season of 2014-15, which included a 2-2 sky-is-falling start to ACC play. The year before that? Duke lost two of its first three ACC games.If the numbers aren’t convincing enough that this isn’t a shocking new development in Durham, consider the words:”I think we’ve done some things to get better. It hasn’t equated in wins, but it’s part of the process of growing as a team. We’ve got to do more.””You try to pay attention to improvement, and we are playing well. We are playing our hearts out, and that has not been rewarded. A lot of people do not get rewarded when they play; they are doing something with all of their heart. We have been rewarded a lot, that is why those banners are out there. Right now it is a cruel time, it’s a tough one. It’s different if it is attitude or whatever, but they are busting their butts.””We have good effort. Our guys came to play. They’ve practiced well. I just don’t think we’re confident right now. I’m not saying we have no confidence. Confident when we shoot it. I just don’t see it. I don’t feel it, and that happens. That’s a part of learning. I’m not totally surprised with us losing—, because I’ve never felt we’re a great team. I’ve felt we’re really a great group of kids working our butts off, winning some big games and stuff like that, but we’re not that team yet. Maybe through the adversity that we have had and will have, we will be afforded the opportunity of doing that. When you have a group of youngsters, you’re trying to cram three or four years of stuff in one year, so this loss was like a year.”The first quote is from Jeff Capel, on this week’s ACC conference call. The second is from Mike Krzyzewski, after Duke lost to Syracuse at Cameron last year. The third is K after losing to Miami at Cameron in 2015, 83 days before cutting down the nets in Indianapolis.In other words, it takes awhile for the March Duke powerhouse to develop. This year’s team is taking a little extra time, due to the large number of injuries the team has suffered. Duke scholarship players have missed a total of 56 games to injury this season, and that total doesn’t include the three games (and counting) Coach K has missed.”This is like our October,” Krzyzewski said in January, before his surgery, referring to the team’s stunted development.The ACC schedule also hasn’t done the Blue Devils any favors. Duke’s back-to-back losses that raised all the uproar came in road games, at No. 9 Florida State and No. 14 Louisville. Consecutive road games against ranked ACC foes isn’t unprecendented, but it’s fairly rare. Rarer still is to run that road gauntlet without losing. Duke has had five such stretches in the schedule since the 2003-04 season. Three times, the Blue Devils have gone 1-1. Twice, they’ve lost both games. The last time Duke won both ends of a ranked-road trip like that? 1958, when the Blue Devils beat No. 7 UNC and No. 10 NC State.The last time UNC played back-to-back ACC road games against ranked teams was 2013, when the Tar Heels lost to No. 8 Miami and No. 2 Duke. The Tar Heels last swept a ranked road trip in 2004 (No. 12 Clemson and No. 14 Maryland).NC State’s last ranked road trip was 2008, when the Pack lost at No. 1 Carolina and No. 24 Clemson. The last time the Pack won both ends of a similar trip was in 1958 (No. 6 Carolina, No. 8 Maryland).”We’re coming off of two straight losses against two good teams on the road in hostile environments,” Capel said. “We’ve played against better competition. Having said that, we have to be stronger. We have to be mentally tougher.”