Next up for Duke is Georgia Tech, and if anyone had told you before Christmas that Tech might be on an upswing while Duke’s situation is uncertain you wouldn’t have believed them.
But here ware with the Yellow Jackets fresh off a smashing win over UNC while Duke took a beating at Virginia Tech and came home to worse news.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Coach K will have surgery to clean up a fragment of a herniated disk and will miss a month.
It’s coming at a time when Duke is adjusting to Grayson Allen’s suspension and still trying to incorporate previously injured players back into the rotation.
Jeff Capel will be the head coach while Coach K is out and while he will certainly have challenges, you couldn’t ask for a better stand-in.
As Yoda said when another Jedi said Luke Skywalker was their last hope: there is another.
Duke is somewhat unique because it goes two deep everywhere, even in head coaches.
That doesn’t solve the problems Duke has had lately not the court though, and losing Coach K is unquestionably disruptive, as was Allen’s suspension.
But the situation is far from hopeless.
As we said, Capel is a proven head coach, as he showed last year when he stepped in against Georgia Tech when Coach K was too ill to travel.
Secondly, though Duke has struggled for the last three games, it’s a talented team still trying to define itself.
And third, in psychological terms, a group facing adversity tends to turn inwards. It’s entirely possible to apply positive pressure to a team facing these issues. In fact, we fully expect Coach K and Coach Capel to find positives in this situation rather than negatives.
For one, we’re seeing more and more of Harry Giles, and we begin to see what the fuss is about. He’s been improving quickly and soon is going to be a major force. A game will come before long where he erupts. When that happens, Duke is instantly a different team.
And as Marques Bolden gets back in the groove, he’ll help too. A stronger inside game - not to knock Amile Jefferson, but as admirable as he’s been, he can’t defend inside like Giles and Bolden can - will make a huge difference.
Of course Duke does have a lot of work to do, primarily to mold a group into a team.
That’s something Coach K excels at of course, and we don’t know just how well Capel does it. But we’re optimistic and we think you should be too.
At the end of the day this is a talented team with smart kids. They’ll be fine.
As for Tech, their win over UNC was eye-popping. No one outside their locker room thought they could pull that off.
Repeating the feat in Durham won’t be easy. First, it’ll be an emotional game anyway. Second, Duke is bound to be angry after that performance in Blacksburg and historically, Duke usually follows a bad outing like that with, at the very least, a very intense one.
And third, despite their brilliant performance against UNC, Tech is still in a rebuilding mode. Ben Lammers has been tremendous as has Josh Okogie. Offensively though the Techsters have had a difficult season, UNC nothwithstanding.
And on top of that, it’s Bob Harris Night as Duke’s venerable broadcaster is to be honored as his career begins to wind down.
Tech has already proven it can pull a stunner. Doing it on the road, doing it in Cameron, won’t be easy.
Possible? Of course. UNC-like easy? That’s hard to picture. We admired that win tremendously, but Duke has a lot of motivation in this game.
- No. 8/8 Duke to Host GT on Bob Harris Night
- Duke men's basketball searching for spark against Georgia Tech after 3 lackluster performances
- ‘Paul from Vinings’ calls into Josh Pastner’s radio show
- Krzyzewski’s surgery common but only a buffer for back issues, not solution
- Jeff Capel stepping in during a rough patch for Duke