We hate to disagree with our friends at the Chronicle, but their article Tuesday about Duke mystique couldn't be more wrong.Â The premise, in case you missed it, is that a) Duke is missing on too many big men, and b) Duke is slipping.Â Let's examine both.
Duke did in fact miss on Brandan Wright, Patrick Patterson, and most recently, Greg Monroe.Â Wright, in K speak, never really unpacked his bags in Chapel Hill, so who cares?Â A one-year big man is not much use.Â In fact, we'd argue that he to an extent displaced Tyler Hansbrough, or at least forced him out of position on a regular basis.
Patterson hasn't played a game yet, but he didn't want to come to Duke, so good thing he didn't. And same thing for Greg Monroe, who is very likely to be a one-year player like Wright.
Can a one-year player help? Well, for one year, yeah.Â Sure.Â Wright would have helped Duke a lot last year.Â But he would have also jammed up recruiting for the prospective Pattersons and Monroes.Â As it turned out, with those two, it didn't matter, but in years past, Duke missed on some guys (like, say, Uwe Blab) and ended with a better player soon enough.
Secondly, the suggestion that Duke hasn't done as well is factually correct but shortsighted, and for some of the same reasons that the big men argument doesn't entirely wash.
Yes, Duke finished 22-11 - a record most schools would love to have, but which at Duke is seen as less than outstanding. But Duke has managed to stay competitive despite several key players leaving early or never showing up, and that's pretty remarkable.Â Consider where UConn has been.Â Consider where UNC went for a few years.Â Consider Arizona's dip.Â Or the likely dip Florida is about to have.Â Or Michigan State. Or Stanford.Â Or Arkansas.Â Or LSU.Â Or Georgetown.
Duke's system adapts brilliantly to the talent that's on hand, and that talent is pretty good, and highly versatile.Â This team is going to be fun, and whether or not there's a first round draft pick playing under the basket, things will work out.
The reason they work out is because Duke identifies responsibilities (rebounding, post defense), and offers them to whoever can handle them.Â So you see a 6-5 guy like Robert Brickey who defends the post brilliantly, or a 6-3 guy like DeMarcus Nelson who is a heck of a rebounder.Â Who saw John Smith coming?
It's not a classically designed system, with 1s and 2s and 3s and 4s and 5s, but it is highly adaptable, and with good athletes, very dangerous. That's what they have this year, and as a result, they'll be fine.