Duke Basketball: Why 1 Loss Changes Little for Blue Devils' Fortunes

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2011

Mike Krzyzewski is likely not overly worried with his team's first loss of the season.
Mike Krzyzewski is likely not overly worried with his team's first loss of the season.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

So Duke lost a game. Anyone with any reasonable concept of modern day college basketball should have expected it.

On any given night, most teams in Division-I could beat each other and, when a team plays as well as Florida State did Wednesday night on the defensive end of the floor, getting a win is an extremely tough task.

But one loss in one game does not a season make. That is one of the many reasons college basketball has little of the controversy college football does. At the end of the season the best team always has a chance to win out.

Up until Wednesday, Duke was considered to be the best team, but were clearly out-played by a game Florida State squad.

Excuses will be conjured among fans and media alike and as always some will make way too much out of a single loss.

Headlines asking what is wrong with Duke or proclaiming the Blue Devils as suddenly vulnerable are all part of the game. But what has really changed between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning other than Duke now has a one in the loss column?

The Blue Devils' weaknesses are still the same, and Florida State didn't do anything to make anyone reasonably think that Duke is any more vulnerable today than they were yesterday.

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Duke lacks a dominant inside presence, but that has been the case all year. The loss of Kyrie Irving hurt Duke's offensive playmaking ability in both halfcourt sets and transition, but everyone has known about that since early December.

As Dick Vitale said over and over last night, the Blue Devils rely on outside shooting. What else is new? This has been the case with Duke for a majority of the last 10-plus years.

If you had to put a finger on a cause of Duke's loss it would be the incredible defensive effort of the Seminoles first and foremost.

They forced the Blue Devils into what looked like at times a three-man weave on the perimeter. When Duke players drove, Florida State defenders collapsed around the ball, and whoever was in the unfortunate position of having the ball didn't do a good job kicking to open shooters or making smart plays.

When this happens Duke loses.

The Blue Devils didn't have a great night on the offensive glass either. They shot more than 30 three-point shots. Last year when they had a dominant rebounder in Brian Zoubek, Duke could count on more opportunities even if the shots weren't falling.

This season, Mason Plumlee has been a solid rebounder, but not necessarily on the offensive end. Older brother Miles looks as if his wheels have fallen completely off at times. Ryan Kelly has been fair, but struggled against a stronger, more athletic frontcourt.

If Duke can't get rebounds on off-shooting nights, they lose.

None of this is new. Look at Duke's loses over the past few years and aside from the occasional game where the defensive is lousy, the pattern is similar.

Florida State dominated the tempo and as Mike Krzyzewski said figuratively punched Duke in the face. The Blue Devils recovered to an extent in the second half, but their fate was sealed once they allowed the Seminoles defense to control what they did offensively.

The fact is these games happen, have happened and will likely continue to happen ever so often for Duke.

So, while the loss costs Duke the No. 1 ranking, ends its 25-game winning streak and eliminates what was an unrealistic chance of going undefeated, it doesn't make them any less of a team.

Krzyzewski will be having his team learn from the game and improve from it. There won't be excuse making and he won't use it as a rallying cry.

Duke fans would do well to relax as there is plenty of season left and it isn't even decided until March after all, not the second week of January.