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A Look Back And Forward

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Let's just state the obvious: no one who pulls for Duke wanted the season to end this way. Duke limped to the end, literally in the case of Ryan Kelly.

After the very solid win at Florida State, Duke barely survived Virginia Tech, was sloppy at the end of the Wake Forest game and closed out 1-3 in the last four games of the season.

What happened?

We may never fully know. Obviously Kelly's injury at the end affected the team a great deal. But that wasn't the only issue.

Lehigh again exposed what Ohio State exposed early in the season: this team had a lot of trouble with quick perimeter players.

It would have been really interesting if this team had someone like Daniel Ewing, Chris Carrawell or Nate James (or for that matter if Kyrie Irving had returned, but that's another story).

The criticism is nothing new: Doug Gottlieb ridiculed Duke a couple of years ago, saying that it was "alarmingly unathletic," to which Coach K said, well, Gottlieb should know.

Not long after that of course, Duke won the national title, athletic enough or not.

One of the criticisms Coach K leveled at his own team earlier in the season was that they were not communicating well, something which improved periodically perhaps, but also may have been at the heart of this team's problems.

One reason why Tyler Thornton emerged, remember, was that he was willing to step up to leadership and his teammates respected him. That was also part of the reason why Josh Hairston became more important: Coach K called him, remember, the best communicator among the bigs.

Yet there were times when it clearly wasn't what it should have been. On one play - we can't remember which game right now - Thornton was taken out by a pick almost precisely like the one Maryland put on Nolan Smith a few years ago which left him with a concussion.

No one told him it was coming.

And in the Lehigh game, not once but twice at the end, their guys got loose for a full-court pass. We didn't see exactly what happened and we're not going back to watch right away, but we're assuming that both times the runners were sprung by picks - which suggests again that communication never fully matured.

This was hinted at again by one of the Plumlees the other day who said that in 2010, the team was like "brothers" and that this year's team needed to get there too.

But it didn't and whatever it is, it's over now. So now what?

Well, as far as we're concerned, we'll get over this and move on. We're always excited about the next season.

We've heard very promising things about the development of Alex Murphy, who gained muscle and weight as expected, but who has also grown taller. We're excited to see what Marshall Plumlee, the most post-oriented of the Plumlee brothers, will bring to the court.

We're also very excited about Rasheed Sulaimon, partly because he's a really good basketball player, but also because his character is bound to have a good impact on Duke's team.

And if Duke can sign someone like Shabazz Muhammad or Amile Jefferson, that would have a huge impact on a lot of the issues this year's team encountered.

Even though this wasn't what we've come to think of as a vintage season, come on: this team won 27 games and finished second in the ACC and that race wasn't settled until the final game of the season.

We hate how it ended, but it's hardly the end of the world.

Whatever happens though, we're still going to be Duke fans. We're going to get up in the morning and put on a Duke shirt. When next fall comes around, we'll be in Cameron, and we'll cheer for our team.

See you there!

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