Mike Krzyzewski couldn't have hoped for a better result for his Duke Blue Devils team if it is to make a deep run in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Sure, winning the ACC tournament title would have been nice, and losing games always hurts, especially in the postseason to a team—the Maryland Terrapins—that has already beaten you once before.
In terms of the bigger picture, though, there's not a better way to motivate your players than with a tough loss to a team you don't particularly like. Every single player will be itching to get back on the court and erase any and all memories of that 83-74 defeat.
With the margin of quality razor-thin between the top teams, Duke needs any advantage possible.
Even with the return of Ryan Kelly, Duke is a vulnerable basketball team, while simultaneously remaining one of the best in the country.
It's not as if the Blue Devils simply have that one transcendent player who single-handedly changes a game, like the Kentucky Wildcats had last year with Anthony Davis. Nor do the Blue Devils have enough all-around talent to simply romp through every game without much effort.
At this point in the season, it's all about losing at the right time. Let's not forget that Kentucky lost, 71-64, to the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC tournament championship last season. You'd gladly take a defeat or two near the end of the season if it means priming your team for a deep run in March.
The players need to understand that one bad performance from a key player can wreck any title challenge.
Duke can't afford to have somebody like Kelly, Mason Plumlee or Seth Curry struggle in the later rounds of the tournament. They can't have a cold shooting night, otherwise Duke is doomed.
The Blue Devils only shot 4-of-25 from three-point range in the loss to the Terrapins on Friday. This is a team that averaged 40.6 percent from behind the arc.
Duke lives by the three and dies by the three.
With shooting going hot and cold, it's unlikely the Blue Devils will have a similarly poor performance in the NCAA tournament.
The loss to Maryland doesn't even look to have cost Duke a chance to be a No. 1 seed, which was the biggest possible worry in the immediate aftermath of the defeat. According to Eric Prisbell of USA Today, the Blue Devils are still likely penciled in as a top seed. The Indiana Hoosiers losing didn't hurt matters, either.
In the end, you've got a loss in the ACC tournament that didn't result in Duke losing a No. 1 seed and made the players more motivated and focused as a result.
Sounds like a victory to me.
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