As the world of college basketball has become accustomed to, the Duke Blue Devils are ranked in the top five going into the NCAA tournament. Last night, however, the 16-14 Demon Deacons of Wake Forrest upset the Blue Devils. This was a very uncharacteristic loss at this point in the season by a Mike Krzyzewski coached team especially this late in the season.
It has been a very unique year for the ACC conference with the introduction of new basketball powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Duke and North Carolina are the traditional leaders of the ACC and this year saw neither of them take home the regular season title, nor did it see either of the new inductees win. Instead Virginia, a normally mediocre basketball school, took home the regular season title losing only at Duke by 4. Before the season began this was an outcome no one would have seen coming including the traditional power of the conference Duke.
Duke had extremely high expectations coming into this season, as usual, and for the most part they have lived up to them. Highly touted freshman Jabari Parker has been even better than advertised averaging 18.8 points and 9 rebounds. The Robin to Parker’s Batman has been Missouri transfer Rodney Hood who is averaging 16.3 points per game and shooting almost 43 percent from three-point range.
The difference from Duke teams of the past has been their style of play. Coach K does not have a true post presence on his roster that can be a legitimate starter so he has had to adapt this year. Parker plays almost as a center, even though his true position would probably be small forward, and has played great in that role. They have become an outside inside team that shoots a lot of threes, which is a departure from Duke teams of the past, as they have been known to play inside out through a strong post presence. This style of play has hurt them against teams with strong front courts like Syracuse and Arizona who were able to out rebound and out muscle the Blue Devils. The inside presence of Wake Forrest was not what hurt them last night, it really came down to Wake just being better on the night.
Losing to Wake Forest will not derail Duke’s season whatsoever, but what is alarming is the look of exhaustion on Mike Krzyzewski’s face and the fact that he was taken to the hospital after the game for “dizziness.” There is no team in college basketball that goes as their coach goes quite like Duke. Coach K is perhaps the best coach in the history of the game and if his health is a real concern going into the tournament that doesn’t bode well for Duke or their title chances. Hopefully Coach K can get back to full health in time for the ACC and NCAA tournaments so Duke can be the normal force they are in both competitions.
While being upset by Wake Forest at this point in the season is abnormal for Duke, it shouldn’t damage their season. What could damage their season is if Coach K has to take any time off for his health concerns, but at this point that seems unlikely.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius