Duke Basketball: Loss to Maryland Proves Blue Devils Not Ready for March Run

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIMarch 17, 2013

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 15:  Dez Wells #32 of the Maryland Terrapins drives to the basket against Ryan Kelly #34 of the Duke Blue Devils during the quarterfinals of the Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 15, 2013 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Although the team has compiled a 27-5 overall record this season, it's been a roller coaster of a year for Duke basketball. That was personified on Friday when the Blue Devils were eliminated by Maryland from the ACC conference tournament, 74-83.

It's hard to underestimate Duke basketball, and no one ever wants to underestimate Duke. They're Duke for crying out loud.

And while history and experience are on their side, the Blue Devils just lack that extra "oomph" this year.

Duke is probable to land a top-four seeding in this year's NCAA tournament, but whether the program deserves it is a different question.

Friday's elimination game wasn't the first time Duke dropped a game to Maryland this year. It also lost a regular-season matchup to the Terrapins in February, 81-83.

Maryland has just eight conference wins on the season, and now 25 percent of those are from beating Duke University.

So what is going on in Durham? At first glance, it looks like the Blue Devils are a team that should be dominating this time of year.

When it comes to March, lots of pundits like to talk experience. Well, Duke has seven upperclassmen, including five seniors. And of course they have the most experienced head coach in the sport, Mike Krzyzewski.

Looking at defense, the Blue Devils aren't elite, but they're solid. Opponents average 65.4 points a game against Duke, which is good for 71st in the NCAA.

Duke has two different players who average at least 1.5 blocks a game, as well as two different players averaging at least 1.3 steals a game.

And of course there's 6'10" senior forward Mason Plumlee, who averages 10.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. The guy's a beast.

Plumlee also leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points a game, which is where Duke makes its bread and butter.

The Blue Devils average 78.3 points a game, which is seventh-best in the NCAA. Outside of Plumlee, the team has four other players averaging double-digit points per game.

The squad is arguably the nation's best three-point shooting team. Duke hits 41.6 percent of its shots from beyond the arc, led by senior forward Ryan Kelly's 53.1 percent.

Experience, defense and strong shooting. Everything you want and more from a March Madness contender.

So what's the problem?

One factor could be energy. Despite all its experience, Duke can look sluggish and off balance at times, leading to inconsistency.

That was a big factor yesterday, with the Blue Devils converting on only four-of-25 three-point attempts. Senior guard Seth Curry (who averages 17.0 points a game) didn't have a single point in the first half.

Meanwhile, Maryland was nothing but energy. Its sophomore guard Dez Wells was electric, scoring a career-high 30 points on his way to dominating Duke.

Another issue is overall depth. While Duke has some great starters and five really good scorers, it lacks any punch beyond that.

Of the players who score less than 10 points per game, the best scorer is freshman forward Amile Jefferson, who is averaging only 4.3 points a contest—granted that is in 13.3 minutes per game.

The Blue Devils have a strong rotation of players, but when someone is having a bad game it can derail the whole team.

Duke is a great basketball program, and it has a solid team this year. With that said, inconsistencies are there, and they're going to be a big issue in the NCAA tournament.

While it would be foolish to count out the Blue Devils completely, it's hard to see them making a run deeper than the Sweet 16.

At least for Duke's sake, anything can happen with March basketball. If it hadn't learned that before the Maryland game, it sure has now.