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Duke - Where To From Here?

There has been a lot of glee from various quarters after Duke's loss to VCU, with a lot of people - including a number who read this site - suggesting that Duke's day is done.  One guy even wrote to tell us Duke should can Krzyzewski and had a list of replacements ready.

Dude, expect a call from Joe Alleva any day.

Here's the reality:  Duke could easily have won five more games this season.  They lost three conference games by five points. If they had won them, they'd have finished 11-5.

  • VPI - 67-69
  • Virginia - 66-68
  • FSU - 67-68
  • NC State - 80-85 (OT in the ACC Tournament)
  • VCU - 77-79

In addition, Duke played brilliantly against UNC at home before tiring late and losing by six. There were other games where they were close late before yielding, but work with these few.  What happened?

Well, there were some problems with this team.  Injuries struck early, as Greg Paulus and Gerald Henderson both started the season with bad wheels.  Marty Pocius had ankle problems.  Dave McClure hyperextended a knee in the middle of the conference season and never seemed to fully recover.

But that's life and other teams had worse problems (think Miami).  This team's bigger problem was that it didn't have a go-to guy on offense, and several players were either forced to play out of position or were just not physically ready for a full ACC season.

While no one can project injuries, most of those problems will be over next year.

If Greg Paulus is healthy, he'll have some vastly improved receivers, if you will:  Gerald Henderson is a brilliant athlete who will make big strides between now and then.  Freshman Taylor King is a big-time offensive presence, and a guy who is not shy about taking shots at any point.  And Kyle Singler brings a lot of what Josh McRoberts does, but adds a superb shot to the package.

There is a potential problem in the post - if McRoberts leaves and Patrick Patterson decides on Florida (our guess is that Tubby Smith's uncertain status at UK will make it hard to pick Kentucky) over Duke, then Duke will have to rely heavily on an improved Brian Zoubek.  We see a lot of potential in Zoubek and he'll be a different player with a lot of muscle, but he's not there yet.

But that issue aside for the moment, most of the problems which kept Duke from winning another 5-6 games this season will be gone - and so will the suggestions that Duke is done.

Finally, there's one more point to make:  a number of people have said, well, let's just forget this season. That's a famous point in Duke's rise of course - the suggestion that Duke forget the 43 point loss to Ralph Sampson's Virginia team, made at a public gathering. Coach K immediately said "here's to never forgetting" what happened in that game.

He made the same point after the VCU loss, but in a less eloquent way. He said that Duke has been successful for a long time, and that sometimes a good butt-kicking can remind you of what you need to do to remain successful.  If you listen, you can hear the challenge being issued.