A Duke Repeat? It's Deja Vu All Over Again

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A Duke Repeat? It's Deja Vu All Over Again
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Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.

If coach Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils are not careful they’re going to do exactly that and the rest of the college basketball world will be doomed.

After a surprising championship run last spring, the Blue Devils basketball squad are poised to repeat their back-to-back dynasty run of the early 90’s.

The similarities are almost eerie. And if the 2010-2011 Blue Devils make a wire-to-wire repeat championship run like that of their 1992 predecessors, it’s because those similarities became mirror images.

 

Catalysts

Not every championship season had a launching pad or a single event that propelled a team to greatness. But you can look back at the 1990 Duke squad and point to their championship game against UNLV as the sign of great things to come.

If you ask Coach K he’ll tell you it was that game that served as a wake-up call leading to cutting down the nets in the championship game the following year.

It was a game in which Duke was run out of the gym by Grandmama and her band of hot-tubbing bookie buddies, who so thoroughly embarrassed Duke’s proud program that it left an indelible mark on how Krzyzewski coached, and how the young team executed his instruction from that point forward.

Fast forward to a sweet 16 game in March of 2009 between the Duke Blue Devils and the Villanova Wildcats . It was a game that wasn’t as lopsided as the aforementioned drubbing, but the dominance was apparent, and the feeling it left coaches and players alike was just as big an impact.

So much so that Krzyzewski went back to the coaching drawing board, resisted falling back on his own institutionalized defensive scheme, and remade Duke’s image as a defensive squad based on what he saw that evening. 

'Nova blew past Duke perimeter players that were trying to pressure 30-feet from the bucket against a group of quicker perimeter athletes. Think what Earl Boykins did to Duke in the tournament years ago and multiply it by two.

Coach K had guards and wings with average speed. But they were smart, savvy, ball-you-man shop wreckers with length and size.

So to play to his team’s size on the perimeter and innate ability to play flawless help and recover defensive basketball, Coach K reigned in the pressure and allowed his kids to guard from the arc on down against teams with quicker personnel.

The result speaks for itself. An unexpected ring.

 

Improbable Championships

If you were to define the unexpected in college hoops terms, how about knocking off one of the greatest college basketball teams ever assembled to start your back-to-back run.

Vegas had a virtual all-star team with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt, George Ackles, and Moses Scurry to name a few. Three first round draft picks and perhaps as many as six NBA caliber players would have graced that squad if shanking was simply a misdemeanor in the state of Nevada.

Throw in the fact that this exact same Vegas group embarrassed this very same Blue Devil club (minus Grant Hill) a short year ago, and to call Coach K’s first championship improbable has to be considered an understatement.

Hit the fast forward button back to 2009. Duke was thought to be a very solid club going in to the season, but no one took them seriously as a championship contender until their great eight game.

Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse were the much more heralded No. 1 seeds and some even thought Ohio State was a better team as a two seed.

Unexpectedly, Duke ran the table and cut down the nets in what was a mild upset if you look at Vegas future odds.

Duke methodically dismantled the field of 65 on it’s way to a championship, but nobody was giving Duke much of a chance heading into the tourney. The buzz was everywhere else but Durham. 

 

Expectations

In 1992, Hill was a year older coming off a stellar freshman season. Then, you had perhaps the best player in college basketball in Christian Laettner, the best point guard in Bobby Hurley, and a collection of athletic role players that collectively made the Devils a prohibitive favorite to repeat.

They ended up completing the run in high style as the first wire-to-wire No. 1 team in a quite some time. Other than the Kentucky game, they left zero doubt as to who the top dog was in college basketball that season, meeting expectations almost as well as Eric Bledsoe’s test-taking stand in.

The 2010 Blue Devils go into the season with similar expectations. And why not? They return the core group of a team that was the best college basketball team in America last season. They also have the benefit of having a season’s worth of familiarity with the system under their belt.

Yes, the expectations will be high, especially for a team that should dominate the conference on its way to another No. 1 seed selection. I’d say there’s an expectation parallel with the 1992 group.

 

Personnel

You start with a hybrid four in Kyle Singler that can step outside and hit the trey. He’s an early frontrunner to win Player of the Year honors.

An underrated, yet seasoned point guard who runs the show and makes things go, but still doesn’t get enough credit as a premier lockdown defender.

Surround these two with an embarrassment of richly talented role players and who am I talking about?

Try both squads.

Laetner and Hurley are comparable to Singler and guard Nolan Smith. You say Hill, Thomas Hill, Bryan Davis and I say Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, and the Plumlee Brothers. 

The 1992 Duke team was a touch more athletic with better slashers and finishers. The 2011 squad will be a much better shooting team. Both personnel groups are outstanding as far as college standards go.

 

The True Constant

Duke still has this little ol’ coach you might have heard of. You know, the one that struck gold in one of the great international coaching jobs of all time, turning a collection of NBA athletes with mere months to prepare into the world’s best. He’s the final parallel. The one that counts.

Ultimately, Coach K is the reason these two champions have so much in common, and don’t be surprised if he’s standing on a ladder after the Final Four adding another token to his impressive collection.

___________________________

From the FanTake blog: March To March

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