Last years, National Championship winning, Duke Blue Devil’s team was led by three freshmen and exceeded even the high expectations many had for them. It wasn’t inconceivable to think that they would do well in the tournament but to win the whole thing was something most did not expect from a team with such a young core. Kudos to them on their amazing accomplishment. Unfortunately, this year isn’t last year and the three dynamic freshman that led them are now on the tail end of their rookie NBA seasons. All was not lost though as Duke still had super sub Grayson Allen ready to step into a bigger role this year, veteran big men Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee, the number two ranked recruiting class for 2015 and of course the ever so brilliant Coach K to fall back on. Duke was ready to keep the good times rolling and looked to be in for another huge year…on paper at least.
Following last year’s historic run to the NCAA championship game, Duke has dealt with what has amounted to the true definition of a Jekyll and Hyde type of season. On the positive side of things, Mike Kryzewski is still Mike Kryzewski, Grayson Allen has stepped into the role many thought he would, Amile Jefferson was playing extremely solid ball and fantastic freshman Brandon Ingram has started to look every part of the Kevin Durant clone many pegged him to be. However, Mr. Hyde did show up indeed as Coach K actually missed games due to health issues, Grayson Allen has recently been reprimanded by the NCAA for being caught tripping another player for the second time this season and is now being questioned from a character perspective by some, the majority of that vaunted freshman class Duke just brought in, save for Ingram, are playing just like freshman and maybe the most difficult pill to swallow was big man Amile Jefferson suffering a right foot fracture back in mid-December. After going 35-4 last year and winning the national championship, Duke is already 21-8 and 12-7 without Jefferson. Allen’s recent in game issue caused the spotlight to burn brighter on the team and led to Coach K making a statement in defense of his player and suggesting it’s time to move on via The Associated Press “I would not suspend any player for what would be a flagrant 1,” Krzyzewski said Sunday, “What he got was the stiffest reprimand a player in our conference has gotten this year. I thought the (ACC) took action, and you’ve got to move on. The world doesn’t move on because it’s Duke.”
Duke will make it into the tournament this year, barring some catastrophic turn of events, so the season is by no means lost. There are some bright spots to focus on as well seeing as how Ingram’s strong play has continued, as has Allen’s, freshman point guard Derryk Thornton seems to finally be getting the hang of running a major college basketball team and Jefferson’s recovery is going well and he could be back before the end of the season. ACC tournament play starts March 8th and as always their ACC foes are many and formidable. If Duke is going to turn things back around, it’s going to have to happen soon, as they have a meeting with arch rival and number 7 ranked North Carolina this Saturday at home in Cameron Indoor Arena. Coach K will show up ready and so will the Cameron Crazies. Let’s hope, for Duke’s sake, Dr. Jekyll shows up in time and decides to stick around for a while.