Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Prior to the season, it looked as if there were about five elite teams and everyone else was substantially worse. Duke was among this small group of teams thought to be head and shoulders better than everyone else. Unfortunately, it’s turned out that the Blue Devils and the other supposedly elite teams aren’t as untouchable as initially thought.
Kentucky hasn’t meshed as a team despite a historically good recruiting class. Michigan State boasts a number of seasoned veterans, but the Spartans have suffered from some miscues. Louisville looked very poor versus North Carolina, Duke beat Michigan and Kansas hasn’t impressed since beating Duke.
In short, the national rankings have been far more fluid than anyone anticipated. On the one hand, it means that the rest of the country’s good teams are having similar problems to the Blue Devils. While that is good news, the troubling aspect of this parity is that any team is capable of upsetting any other team.
Vermont and East Carolina certainly banged that point home for Duke. Going forward, the Blue Devils will face a better-than-expected Tarheels team, a Syracuse squad that’s similar to Arizona and a Pitt team that’s playing well. That adds up to a lot of potential pitfalls for Duke.
While parity might make for an exciting season and tournament, it increases the amount of uncertainty for even the nation’s most talented teams. Initially, Duke appeared to be a team that would dominate lesser opponents. Now it’s evident that Duke—like every other top team—is susceptible to upsets.
That should make for some frustrating regular season games and a nerve-racking NCAA tournament. Even if Duke improves—and they should improve—the Blue Devils will need to be wary of the fact that any opposing team can derail their title hopes.