After the loss to State?
Well a sense of perspective first: State is a talented team with a lottery pick in Dennis Smith and perhaps another one in Omer Yertseven.
Yes the Pack has been up and down but the talent is unquestionable. This is a team with potential.
Of course so is Duke and Duke had the advantage in that game and let up. So what now?
Well that’s a two-part question. The first part deals with the players on the team. Seth Greenberg said it was wise of Jeff Capel to have Matt Jones and Amile Jefferson in the game because they were experienced and because you could be flexible in how you build around them.
And both Marques Bolden and Harry Giles were significantly better against State as their recoveries continue.
But what Duke doesn't have right now are established roles. It’s hard to nail everything down when people are coming and going. For instance, Chase Jeter might have helped against State but he was out with a back issue.
It just hasn’t stopped. Still, you have to keep going.
We think Jeff Capel has done a pretty solid job overall but who could have ever predicted a roller coaster like this season?
Would Coach K have done better?
Probably, but that’s a hypothetical and we can’t even know all the variables. On balance though probably so.
And what Duke is also lacking is a natural point guard. Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Frank Jackson have all taken turns at the point with Allen being the primary guy now, even off the bench, but it’s a problem. We saw this against State as Jayson Tatum brought the ball down and tried to go behind his back in the closing seconds with the game on the line.
It was partly a freshman mistake and partly a bit of understandable arrogance: the guy is a great player. Of course he thought he could do it.
But he should’ve given it up to a more natural ballhandler to set something up.
This is a season like no other.
Duke still has time to pull together and Coach K’s return is drawing closer. One thing we noticed in 1995 and in a different (lesser) way now is that his replacements - Gaudet in ‘95 and Capel today - don’t have his knack for managing the game late.
In fairness to Capel, he was thrust into a tough position with a roster in total flux. It wouldn’t be easy for anyone.
When things do begin to approach normal, Duke will improve and be more consistent. Until then, we’re like to continue this roller coaster ride. So hang on.