Duke Basketball: 12 Reasons the Blue Devils Are Guaranteed to Disappoint
The most avid of the Cameron Crazies are well aware that, no matter the year, anything short of a national championship for the Duke Blue Devils in men’s basketball is a disappointment.
Well, prepare to be disappointed.
Because while coach Mike Krzyzewski has another great team on his hands, this version of the Duke Blue Devils will disappoint their fans and fall short of a national title for myriad reasons.
Here are a dozen of them.
This already reared its ugly head in Duke’s demolition to Ohio State during the recent ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Entering that matchup, the Devils crammed seven games into a 13-day stretch—including three in three days at the Maui Invitational halfway across the globe.
As a result, the weary Devils shot a meager 3-of-15 from three-point distance and were trounced by the Buckeyes, 85-63.
Considering how Duke’s schedule is usually among the more rigorous in the nation (30-game regular season, followed by typical deep runs in the ACC and NCAA tourneys), it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see fatigue catch up to Duke again, this time in the most inconvenient situation—the NCAA tournament.
Not Enough Rebounding
Of the many disturbing aspects that emerged from the Duke Blue Devils’ recent 85-63 drubbing to Ohio State was the fact that the Dukies were contained on the boards by Jared Sullinger and his Buckeye teammates.
Ohio State finished the game with a 33-27 rebounding edge and if you were judging this game by the eye test, then Duke’s frontcourt of the brothers Plumlee (Mason and Miles) and Ryan Kelly didn’t fare as well as Blue Devils fans would’ve liked in terms of attacking the glass.
While the Devils have actually rebounded pretty well overall this season, they must prove they can consistently do it against elite competition, which is what they’ll be running into come March Madness.
Duke's Point Guard Situation Won't Settle Itself
Duke’s lack of an established point guard could serve as their unraveling by season’s end. Seth Curry is leading the way at the point for the Blue Devils right now, but he’s at his best as a shooting guard.
The same can be said for star Austin Rivers, so it’s unlikely that Coach K would hand the point guard duties over to him. Talk has emerged that Tyler Thornton could see increased playing time at the point this season, but it’s hard to imagine the sophomore being anything other than a merely serviceable floor general at this point in his career.
And while Quinn Cook has the potential to be a great point guard in the near future, it may be unreasonable to expect greatness from the unproven freshman this year. Either way, if Duke’s point guard platoon doesn’t get the job done when the competition amps up, it could be a disappointing end for Blue Devils fans.
Austin Rivers Will Try to Do Too Much
Plain and simple, Duke’s freshman phenom Austin Rivers is a cold-blooded scorer, and a cold-blooded scorer’s mentality is obviously to score. This mindset could hurt Duke come March.
If the Blue Devils find themselves in a tight NCAA tourney contest, Coach K’s best offensive player in Rivers may feel the insatiable need to carry the team on his back. The problem with this is that Rivers could end up forcing the action against teams with the personnel capable of keeping him out of the scorer’s column.
If Rivers becomes too stubborn to trust his capable teammates in tense situations, then he’ll carry the Blue Devils on his back, alright—right out of the postseason.
The Three-Point Shooting Will Go Cold
Living by the three-ball is a dangerous lifestyle for the Duke Blue Devils. Sure, the Dukies boast a plethora of deadly long-range snipers: Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly, to name a few.
But there will come a time when Duke goes cold from beyond the arc. And when that happens, it doesn’t appear that the Blue Devils have enough inside scoring (outside of Mason Plumlee) to compensate.
Duke’s Perimeter Guards Are Suspect Defensively
It’s amazing that some of Duke’s guards are very un-Duke like defensively. That’s something you’d never expect from a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team.
Although Seth Curry is good at attacking passing lanes on defense, he lacks the ability to keep up with explosive guards off of the first step. Star freshman Austin Rivers is average at best on the defensive end and there are times where he looks rather uninterested when defending.
In essence, there isn’t that lockdown defender on the perimeter that has become a Duke staple, which could cost them should they run into an explosive backcourt like they did against Arizona last season.
Miles Plumlee Isn’t Contributing Enough
All of the Cameron Crazies know that Duke big man Mason Plumlee is a bona fide stud down low. He’s as athletic as they come and can finish at the rim with flair.
However, the same can’t be said of Mason’s older brother, Miles. While the eldest Plumlee brother had a breakout game (14 points) against Colorado State and showed flashes of dominance against Washington, fans need to see more performances like these if Duke is to go on another deep postseason run.
The problem is that Miles has struggled offensively against elite competition this year, scoring just a combined 12 points against Ohio State, Kansas and Michigan. That doesn’t bode well for the Blue Devils come tournament time, where elite teams lurk at every turn and Mason will need some help down low.
There's Not Enough Depth
There’s a major difference between boasting depth in the regular season and the crucible that is the NCAA tournament. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has had no problem playing 10 guys on any given night so far this season.
But don’t look for that trend to continue come March, simply because there’s significant drop off when you dissect Duke’s bench. If I’m a rabid Duke fan, I have little faith in players like Josh Hairston, Quinn Cook, Michael Gbinjie and Tyler Thornton down the stretch.
That means Duke suddenly lacks the depth needed to advance deep in the rigorous big dance. Of course, if someone in the aforementioned quartet ends up proving themselves to Coach K, then that changes everything. However, I just don’t see them performing at high levels come March at this point in their careers.
Everybody Gets Up for the Devils
It’s no secret that a college basketball program as polarizing as the Duke Blue Devils get every opponent’s best shot on a nightly basis. That has to wear on a team of college-aged kids, no matter how sound and mature they appear to be.
Taking everybody’s best body blow could potentially soften the Devils up for an eventual knockout punch in the postseason. Maybe the Blue Devils will be tough—and talented—enough to overcome everyone’s best shot, like they were in 1991, 1992, 2001 and 2010 (Duke’s championship seasons). Then again, maybe they won’t.
Ryan Kelly Will Hit the Wall
Blue Devil fans have to be pleasantly surprised at the season junior forward Ryan Kelly is having thus far. At the same time, however, they must still wonder whether he can sustain this success for an entire season.
Kelly’s performance against Washington proves that he still has a ways to go in becoming a consistent, reliable offensive presence. Kelly played poorly in the first half against the Huskies, but rebounded with a solid second-half effort in Duke’s win at Madison Square Garden.
If Duke can’t consistently get two halves of solid play from a versatile weapon like Kelley, they’re asking for trouble.
the Free-Throw Shooting—especially from Mason Plumlee—is Troubling
Mike Krzyzewski has got to be popping antacids over his team’s surprisingly bad free throw shooting. In their past three games, the Blue Devils have shot a pedestrian 53 of 87 from the charity stripe.
Even more disturbing has to be the performance of Mason Plumlee from the free throw line. He’s shooting at a 40 percent clip from the line, turning him into a flat out liability at the end of tight games. It’s tough for Duke’s best low post player to beat the opposition when he’s most likely going to be riding the pine in crunch time, like he did against Washington.
The Field Is Too Strong
If you have to pick exactly one major reason why the Duke Blue Devils won’t win the national championship in 2012, it will be because they’ll simply run into a better team. Who exactly is better than the Blue Devils? Well, take your pick.
Kentucky looks stronger than they ever have under John Calipari, and that’s saying something. We’ve already seen what Ohio State can do against the Dukies and there’s no reason to believe they can’t emerge victorious again in a Final Four setting. And that’s just your top-two ranked teams, never mind the handful of others out there that can best the Blue Devils in a 40-minute struggle.