In 1979, with Duke’s season rocked by a devastating weekend trip to New York for back to back games (Duke lost large second half leads in both games and lost both), a magazine - we think it was Basketball Weekly - ran an article called “What’s Wrong With Duke?”
It’s not 1979 of course.
In 1978, Duke enjoyed a beatiful ride to the national championship game. In 1979, the late Bill Foster, who was better suited to building a program rather than maintaining one, found the pressure of being #1 insufferable. At one point he was taping the windows of Cameron so no one could watch practice.
Whatever happens with this team, that’s never been a problem for Duke under Coach K, who embraces and indeed relishes the expectations.
What’s happening this season is the bizarre rash of injuries has made it impossible for Duke to build any sort of continuity.
That and the fact that this team has six freshmen (and of those the four bigs have all either been injured or, in the case of Harry Giles, recuperating from a high school injury).
And of course Coach K has been out, which also hurts. He’s pretty brilliant at making adjustments.
Defense overall is lacking but the perimeter D is better than interior defense and indeed the perimeter in general is very solid.
Then again, the only interior defender with meaningful experience is Amile Jefferson who is - you guessed it - injured.
After him it’s Chase Jeter, who has a lot of potential and who is certainly improved but who is also - you guessed it - slowed by an injury.
After that it’s all freshmen big men all of whom - you guessed it - have been injured.
It’s no more complicated than that. Take a look at the Jefferson chart on the article linked above. He has a huge impact.
For a lot of Duke fans the idea that Duke might struggle is a novelty. For those who were around in 1979, much less the early ‘70’s - or ‘80’s - it’s been a while but the concept isn’t new or anything.
The good news is that it’s likely to end more quickly than it did back then. And Coach K is not going to have the same issues that Coach Foster did.
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