What Did Duke Teach Us in Win Over Arizona State?

Mike KlineAnalyst INovember 26, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 25: Jon Scheyer #30 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles the ball in front of Jamelle McMillan #10 of the Arizona State Sun Devils at Madison Square Garden on November 25, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

The nation learned a lot about this year's version of the 2009-10 Duke men's basketball team on Wednesday night.

And for the most part it isn't a good thing if you are a Blue Devil fan.

Duke avoided an early exit from the NIT Tipoff Classic by defeating Arizona State 64-53. The win can only be described as ugly and if nothing else it revealed more about the Blue Devils whose previous four games were all blow out wins over inferior talent.

So what did we learn?

Duke is not very quick

Not sure this should come as much of a surprise but it bears repeating as ASU for most of the game showed its superior quickness in getting to lose balls, rebounds, and to the basket.

Unlike the experts like ESPN's Doug Gottlieb who pronounced Duke as an unathletic team, it is more that Duke lacks the vertical quickness and overall speed that some other schools possess in greater abundance.

Lack of quickness and speed in no way means Duke is unathletic as Gottlieb and others proclaimed, but it is a significant weakness and it showed against the Sun Devils.

Duke has plenty of good basketball players who are athletic in their own right but they won't be winning any foot races anytime soon. And in a close game or with the right mismatches it can be a fatal flaw for the Blue Devils.

Jon Scheyer is mortal

Scheyer had played nearly 140 minutes before Wednesday night's game without a turnover. He had two against ASU.

Still Scheyer was one of the main reasons that Duke won the game with his steady play even when Duke faced its largest deficit of the year.

He may not possess those typical point guard qualities, but he has held in own while running the offense for the Blue Devils.

More Zone Please

Mike Krzyzewski is a proud man who has built his best teams on the backs of intense man-to-man defense.

The problem is this year’s Blue Devils aren't really capable of playing the type of man-to-man defense they have in years past.

Arizona State really exploited that fact Wednesday and had little trouble taking the slower Duke defenders off the dribble and creating lay ups, fouls, or scoring opportunities for teammates.

It was especially painful to watch 7 foot 1 inch Brian Zoubek attempting to come out, as he is suppose to help defensively on high screens based on Duke's man defense.

The problem is it created more mismatches and fouls than it did help for the Blue Devils defense.

Yet Krzyzewski only showed the zone one time down court in the second half.


Better, faster teams than the Sun Devils will exploit Duke's lack of vertical quickness in the man defensive scheme.

The solution would be to play more zone and force those teams to out shoot you. And while there has been talk of seeing more zone this season we all saw on Wednesday, Krzyzewski still wants to live and die with man-to-man.

It may be fine against some teams but against the likes of Connecticut who plays Duke in the NIT Championship game Friday, it could get real ugly real quick.

But who am I to question a coaching legend?

Duke can win without Kyle Singler but...

The results are guaranteed to be ugly.

Singler was clearly off Wednesday and never seemed comfortable. This could have been attributed to several causes but only he knows what the problem was.

The positive Duke can take from this game is that they can win without their do-it-all star. He did hit some big shots at key moments, but his overall game seemed forced and that led to many uncharacteristic mistakes by the preseason All-American.

All in all a win is a win and Duke will certainly take it. However, the win was a wakeup call for the Blue Devil players and the fans.

There has been a lot of talk about how good this Duke team is. But the fact remains that until they beat a team like Connecticut on Friday this team they still are unproven

So far the Blue Devils have only four convincing wins over mediocre opponents and one over a team predicted to finish in the middle of the road in a weak Pac 10 Conference.

It may be best to quell all of those talks of final fours and deep tournament runs until Duke can prove it can win a game against a team equally as good and who has superior speed.

They will get their chance very soon.