Duke Basketball Loses: Why This Could Help the Blue Devils Down the Line

Mike KlineAnalyst IJanuary 18, 2011

Nolan Smith has carried the load for Duke at the point following the loss of freshman Kyrie Irving.
Nolan Smith has carried the load for Duke at the point following the loss of freshman Kyrie Irving.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The simplest concept in all of sports is that no one likes to lose.

From the time an athlete first picks up a ball, bat or whatever the case is, he or she is taught to do there best and win.

No player wants to lose and no fan of those players or teams wants to see them lose. So when Duke saw its 25-game winning streak come to a close last week against Florida State, it wasn't a happy time for Duke or its fans.

The loss brought about a variety of reactions from some feeling it was no big deal to others feeling as if the Blue Devils were somehow found to be inferior.

The fact is, Duke lost and it ended the faint hopes of an undefeated season that some were clinging too.

After the loss, many predicted the Blue Devils' next game at home against a short-handed Virginia team to be a blow-out.

Why not expect it?

Heading into the game, Duke was 14-2 in the last two years following a loss and hadn't suffered consecutive loses in that same two-year span.

Many felt Mike Krzyzewski was going to crack the whip and have his team playing with a superhuman intensity. The fact is, it just didn't happen.

Krzyzewski made no tweaks to the lineup and didn't appear to be sending any specific message to his team with the particular moves he made, though Miles Plumlee only playing four minutes has some wondering.

Still, Duke came out sluggish and got punched in the face by a Virginia team who just outplayed the Blue Devils in every phase of the game.

It wasn't until midway in the second half that Duke appeared to wake up and recover enough to fight back and pull of the most difficult 16-point victory in recent memory.

Many are asking if the loss to Florida State exposed Duke, and if so, what comes next?

The answer to the first question is easy: yes it did, but not in the way many think.

Duke perhaps needed a loss to realize for themselves and for some delusional fans that they weren't invincible. They needed the sting of a loss to realize just how hard it is going to be this season.

Sure the season started off well with freshman Kyrie Irving giving some validity to what was still a slim chance at an undefeated run. But when he went down to injury, it turned Duke's world upside down.

They are now forced to play much like last year's team, at a more deliberate pace. They will still push the ball, but not at the warp speeds Irving could provide.

Some familiar criticisms are also creeping back into the fray. Many feel Duke's lack of an inside scoring threat makes them vulnerable. Others say Nolan Smith playing the point makes them vulnerable, and there is the ever-present "Duke plays its stars too many minutes" criticism.

These are primarily generated by those overzealous fans or media types that act as if they haven't seen Duke play a game since 1992.

The fact is, the loss to Florida State, as eye-opening and painful as it might have been, will only help Duke down the stretch.

The team, not being ranked No. 1 and not being undefeated, has a little less pressure now. Krzyzewski may not make any major tweaks, but no one motivates better than he does, and come March, Duke will still be right there in the mix.

Krzyzewski dusted off a familiar refrain recently, saying his team was good, but not great.

He said the same thing about last year's team, and that ended pretty well.