Thanks to the way Mike Krzyzewski has spoiled us over the years, we've come to take it for granted that the Duke Blue Devils will always be one of the nation's elite teams.
Spoiler alert: The Blue Devils are not elite this season. At least not right now, anyway.
We know this primarily because Duke just got exposed in rather embarrassing fashion by the mighty Temple Owls on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils paid the Owls a visit at the Wells Fargo Center and got badly outplayed for a bulk of the proceedings, losing by the final score of 78-73.
If you want, you can chalk this loss up to regular old bad luck. The Blue Devils played well enough to win, but they had the rotten luck of playing a Temple squad that could seemingly do no wrong. The Owls shot better than 56 percent from the floor, and everything was falling for them in the later end of the second half.
Hey, stuff like this happens. Even to the best teams, right?
Indeed it does, but why should we assume that the Blue Devils are one of the nation's best teams?
In reality, we have too much evidence to the contrary. Duke may have 12 wins and it may have the everlasting benefit of the doubt from the basketball punditry, but the fact of the matter is that the Blue Devils' two losses paint a much more telling picture than their 12 wins.
Duke fans would just as soon forget the first loss, a blowout at then-No. 2 Ohio State in late November. The Blue Devils went into the game looking to make a statement, but the Buckeyes dominated them from start to finish. Against a Duke team as deep as any team in the land, the Buckeyes made it look easy.
The Owls didn't make it look quite so easy, but they showed that Duke is just as vulnerable against mediocre teams as it is against (truly) elite teams. All you have to do is get the Blue Devils on the road.
And that, of course, is a reality that should frighten the Duke faithful. The Blue Devils have looked just fine within the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, but they're going to have to hit the road quite a bit in the coming weeks. They presumably won't lose all their road games, but there are probably more where their first two road losses came from.
To boot, dominance at home should not be taken for granted from this point forward. Duke has looked as good as ever at home, to be sure, but it's easy to look good at home when you're playing schools like Presbyterian, Western Michigan and St. Mary's School for the Blind.
Looking good at home against some pretty tough ACC opponents won't be so easy.
On the bright side, it's not like Duke's latest loss is going to cause them to wither up and blow away. The Blue Devils may not be elite, but they are not exactly helpless either. They're going to get back to winning, and they're going to win more often than they lose.
But the goal for Duke, as it always is, is to be good enough to make a run at a national title. Making it through the regular season is a mere formality.
This year, it looks like making it through the regular season is going to be more of a nuisance than Coach K and the Blue Devils would like. If so, the question is how much they're going to have left when the Big Dance rolls around.
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