Duke Basketball: Blue Devils' Best and Worst-Case Postseason Scenarios

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Duke won 66-48. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

With only two regular-season games remaining until the ACC tournament, the Duke basketball team has to be considered one of the favorites to take home the national championship.

Duke has won 11 of its past 13 contests and has climbed all the way up to No. 4 in the country in both major polls.

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 25:  Rodney Hood #5 of the Duke Blue Devils throws down an alley-oop dunk over Trevor Thompson #32 of the Virginia Tech Hokies during a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant H
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

In terms of pure talent, it doesn’t get much better than Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Andre Dawkins, Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. Throw in Mike Krzyzewski at the helm and it isn’t difficult to imagine great things when the postseason rolls around.

However, don’t forget that there were also some lows during the 2013-14 campaign.

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 04:  Andre Dawkins #34 of the Duke Blue Devils launches a 3-point shot in front of head coach Jeff Bzdelik and Travis McKie #30 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 4, 2014 in Durha
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Blue Devils started 1-2 in the ACC and appeared to be at a crossroads in early January. Even Parker himself hit a freshman wall of sorts and was benched for the final four minutes of the two-point loss to Notre Dame.

The fact that there have been combinations of highs and lows within the same season suggests what Duke is capable of in either direction.

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 18: Rasheed Sulaimon #14 and Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils go up for a rebound against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion on February 18, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Ima
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It is easy to get caught in the moment and say Duke is on the short list of Final Four contenders because of how well it has played recently. That being said, defense and rebounding problems could become an issue in a hypothetical worst-case scenarioespecially given the one-and-done format of the NCAA tournament.

Coach K himself suggested the same in a press conference in early February:

We can lose easier than last year’s team because, one, we don’t have a lot of depth in the frontcourt. We’re not this big and strong team. There are more opportunities to lose with this team. When you’re coaching, you’d like to reduce the number of ways you can lose. And I’m not sure even as we get better that we’re going to be able to.

The Blue Devils’ rebounding issues have been discussed ad nauseam this season, but that doesn’t change the fact that they rank 182nd in the country in total rebounds per game. North Carolina exploited this weakness in Duke’s latest loss by out-rebounding the Blue Devils 43-30.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

If Krzyzewski’s squad runs into a similar physically dominant team with a formidable frontcourt early in the NCAA tournament, a similar development could occur.

Again, this is a worst-case scenario and not a prediction. In this hypothetical, however, the Blue Devils would be knocked out of the Big Dance in their second game to a No. 7 or 8 seeddepending on whether Duke is a No. 1 or 2 seed itself.

The reality is that rebounding will continue to be the dark cloud hovering over Durham until Jahlil Okafor arrives on campus.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

On the flip side of the coin, what about the best-case scenario for the Blue Devils?

Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com envisions a Final Four in Duke’s future:

Again, go back to all that talent on the Blue Devils’ roster. Ken Pomeroy has Duke ranked as the second-best offense in his pace-adjusted offensive efficiency ratings as of Tuesday behind only Creighton. The name of the game is scoring more points than the opposition and few teamsif anyare better-suited to do just that than the Blue Devils in March.

In the one-and-done format of the tournament, superstars often take over games. Just look at what guys like Ben Gordon or Carmelo Anthony have done in the past for evidence of that.

Who’s to say Parker couldn’t do the same in what may be his only collegiate season?

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 13:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils cuts down the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 75-58 in the championship game of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 13
Jaime L. Mikle/Getty Images

Even if Parker struggles in a given game, there are so many other options between Hood, Sulaimon, Cook, Dawkins and Jefferson that the Duke offense will still be dangerous. 

The best-case scenario for this team is to win the national championship. In fact, with so much talent in place, it is much easier to envision Krzyzewski cutting down the nets than going home during the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

 

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