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Miami Overpowers Duke, 80-69

Miami won but you can't really say Duke is beaten. The Blue Devils definitely competed and competed hard.

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Jan 25, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) dribbles the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at BankUnited Center.
Jan 25, 2016; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) dribbles the ball against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at BankUnited Center.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A whole generation has now come of age without any clue that Duke could actually struggle during a basketball season, so for many, the last few games have come as a major surprise.

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In one sense, it's not the worst thing. Duke has been hugely successful for 30 years, with only one year being a significant off year. That was 1995, of course, when Coach K took a medical leave of absence.

It's been an amazing run and it's not over. But it may be on hold for a while.

Duke fans, who have been accused of arrogance from time to time, might take the time to realize that winning doesn't happen simply because you're Duke. A lot goes into it, coaching, recruiting and hard work among them. And there's also a certain amount of luck and chance.

You get lucky when Tyus Jones decides Duke is the place for him and brings Jahlil Okafor along with him. You get lucky when Justise Winslow far exceeds expectations - and when you have a lottery pick who doesn't show how good he is until the championship game.

But luck flows both ways. Duke got very unlucky when Amile Jefferson went down. He is Duke's best inside player, best rebounder, best defender and best communicator. And he had become a very good scorer as well.

Duke's depth, already shallow, disappeared. That's bad luck too. There was no one to replace him.

Duke has players on the bench who will help eventually, but probably not this season: Chase Jeter is a real talent who has struggled so far, while Antonio Vrankovic, in limited minutes early in the season, showed great instincts.

But it'll be awhile.

And as we've seen lately, Duke, even diminished, plays hard and never gives up. That's not chance, that's not luck.

So it was at Miami.

Duke took the longest road trip of the season on a Saturday/Monday wraparound, played six players for all but two minutes and not surprisingly faded down the stretch.

It was going to be a tough game no matter what happened.

On the bright side, we continue to see remarkable advances from Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard, both of whom are becoming potent offensive players.

Ingram has really picked up since Jefferson went out and is now being talked of seriously as the #1 pick in the NBA draft this summer. Now his rebounding is getting much better as well: he had 10 against Miami to go with his 19 points.

But increasingly Kennard is showing signs of becoming an elite offensive performer. He's showing more and more that he can drive and score inside. Going into the Miami game, he was leading the NCAA in free throw shooting percentage at over 92%. He did miss one Monday night, but the shot is there. At whatever point it becomes consistent outside, Kennard will greatly improve Duke's offense.

Miami did a nice job on Allen, limiting him to 6-17 and 1-5 from outside. He finished with 17, but it wasn't an efficient 17.

So Duke falls to 4-4 and now there's a brutal path ahead: an improving and bigger Georgia Tech, a rematch with State, then Louisville, Virginia, UNC, Louisville, FSU, Pitt, Wake Forest and UNC.

For Duke fans, it's a chance to test some things. On the one hand, we have to accept that this team may struggle to win. But what about us? Are fans going to continue to show up and be passionate? Will we help push them through this?

Or are we the arrogant, spoiled fans people think Duke fans are?

What we see is this: this is a team that fans should love, not because it's overwhelming because clearly it's not.

But this team is not giving up. It fights. It has a lot of heart. And it's not that far away from being pretty good, despite the various problems. Add in consistent play from Kennard and Thornton (along with consistent play from everyone else), and things are different very quickly.

This season is a long way from being over.