Before anybody gets too wound up about the St. John's loss, allow us to point out that it comes one year to the day after an equally painful loss to Georgetown. After that loss, Duke finished the season 18-1,with only a loss at Maryland. We're not saying that Duke is going to do that again, but anyone who thinks this is a major blow, think again: there is nobody -- not a single coach in basketball and possibly not any sport -- who gets more out of a loss, particularly a bad loss, than Mike Krzyzewski.
That said, there's a lot to draw from this game.
St. John's beat Duke like a drum. They penetrated at will, pretty much disregarded Duke's defense, and took thorough advantage of the Devils for much of the game.
The biggest problem was that Duke could not match St. John's quickness. They pressed Duke and in particular in the first half made them pay heavily. Duke finished the game with 17 turnovers.Â Duke shot just under 42% for the game compared to the Johnnies, who made a banging 58.2
Yet in spite of a thorough whipping, Duke nearly made a big comeback late in the second half.
After being dominated completely for most of the game, with1:46 left, Nolan Smith cut the lead to 13 on a three-point shot.
After the Gone in 54 Seconds game, Duke fans know stunning turnarounds are possible, and it's fairly common to see the Devils surge back even in a blowout because they are just taught that way.
But of course it didn't happen in this one.
So what next?
As a bit of a clue, let's look back at one of the pillars of the program, which was the loss to Virginia and Ralph Sampson in the 1983 ACC Tournament.
After the game, Coach K made it clear that there would be no forgetting what happened.
That's been a characteristic of the program ever since: make an honest assessment of what's wrong, work together to overcome weaknesses, and make appropriate adjustments.
No question that this game was a setback, but it's also an opportunity.Â And typically, Duke makes the most of an opportunity, even an unpleasant one.