Duke Basketball Not Likely To Ditch Doubters

Mike KlineAnalyst IFebruary 15, 2010

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 19:   Jon Scheyer #30 is greeted by Kyle Singler #12, Brian Zoubek #55 and Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils after win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second half of the Aeropostale Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 19, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

There are those who still doubt whether or not Duke can make a serious tournament run come March.

After all, we've seen the program that once made a regular habit of making Final Four and national championship runs struggle on the stage that once defined it as a college basketball powerhouse.

Under Mike Krzyzewski's leadership, Duke has been to 10 Final Fours, won 11 ACC Tournament championships, finished first in the ACC regular season 10 times, and won three national titles.

But in today's, "what have you done for me lately?" society, those who dislike Duke for a myriad of reasons (see my article), or who are just simply critics, are quick to dismiss the Devils' significance given their recent Final Four drought.

Even some Duke fans, who have been spoiled by early and late '90s success, have begun to turn on Krzyzewski a bit.

Coach K doesn't play enough players, doesn't recruit the best players, doesn’t develop the players he has into NBA lottery picks, or forces kids to leave the program with his old-fashioned ways. He gets criticism from all angles.

The doubts surrounding this Duke team center on the last three or four teams' shortcomings. They have been classified as not athletic, not aggressive, and not deep enough to make a tournament run.

Despite being in the top 10 all year in a season that lacks a truly dominant team, it appears there is little confidence or expectation the Blue Devils will be more than a Sweet 16 team this year.

Again, Duke's recent late-season and tournament failures seem to be the primary reason for this mindset. Even some of the Blue Devils' performances this season have been reminiscent of teams past.

All four losses have come in true road games. They include drubbings at the hands of Georgetown (a top-10 team at the time), and unranked conference foe NC State.

Hardly characteristics of a contender, right?

But so far Duke has avoided the late-season melt down that has plagued them recently. It has not lost consecutive games this season—something it has done the last couple of seasons.

The doubters, though, are many and they throw out lots information to back up their claims. 

They say Duke depends too much on its big three and doesn't get much from the bench. Duke's too thin at guard, too weak in the post, and not good defending against quick, agile guards.

But you could just as easily refute if not turn most of those into positives in favor of the Devils.

I could contend, for instance, that despite the big minutes of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, and Nolan Smith, the bench is at least providing minutes, if not points.

In the last couple of games, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Brian Zoubek, and Mason Plumlee have come off the bench, with the exception of Zoubek's start against Maryland. Zoubek, Plumlee, and Dawkins have averaged 10 or more minutes a game.

Plumlee has started to pick up some valuable minutes and contribute points and rebounds as his game is beginning to round out.

Perhaps Zoubek merely caught lightning in a bottle against Maryland, but he has been an effective defensive player and rebounder all season. Points from him are gravy.

The big three of Singler, Scheyer, and Smith are all very capable and skilled guard/forwards. They average almost 53 points a game combined. They are the most prolific combination in the country.

All Duke needs is solid defensive efforts with just minimal point output from the likes of Miles and Mason Plumlee, Zoubek, and Lance Thomas in the post.

Despite the long list of positives regarding this team it does not guarantee it will be a contender in late March, but I believe they just may be able to make some noise.

However, I'm not going to try and convince anyone of that because either you believe Duke can do it or you don't.

I choose to believe and the doubters will always choose to doubt.