Like a lot of you we suspect, we checked out a bit on Thursday, not because of the Gonzaga game but because Thanksgiving takes some effort and it tends to wear you out in the end.
Tryptophan is a natural antidote to the day.
Getting back to it though, it’s about as useful a loss as you could hope for. First, Gonzaga showed Duke that talent is not enough. You have to play with emotion and unity.
Duke figured it out later but not in time to pull off the win.
And while RJ Barrett was willing to step up at the end, he is not yet experienced enough to necessarily know exactly how.
It works better if you think of it this way: he’s auditioning for the Laettner role.
If you’re very, very lucky, you have a guy on your team who is not just willing but eager to step up and try to win the game.
Christian Laettner is Duke’s (and college basketball’s) greatest role model in this sense but Duke has had other guys too. We were amazed at how consistently Tyus Jones made brilliant decisions in his brief career. Shane Battier had the ability to raise his game when needed.
Part of that though is understanding that you can’t simply bull your way to success. It might be better to pass to someone else at times or to get to the line.
It’s not a huge concern honestly. Having a guy with that instinct is incredibly valuable. Our favorite example was when he could have taken a two to tie late and instead went for the three.
Remember he’s a freshman.
We’re guessing that in some way, Coach K is going to take Cam Reddish into the Krzyzewski Body and Mind Garage and try to tinker with his approach. He’s hugely talented as we’ve seen in stretches but he’s not yet 100% consistent.
Duke likes to make custom videos for players to focus on weaknesses and for Reddish, defense is going to be part of it. There’s no particular reason for him to be in consistent foul trouble if he is in position consistently.
In general though, we think that while issues will be addressed, the overall reaction to the Gonzaga loss will be positive.
Duke was educated for much of the game by Gonzaga and was able to apply the lessons before the end of the contest.
A team with four freshman starters got knocked back by a vastly more experienced and probable Final Four team.
The comparisons to Michigan’s Fab Five come to into play here.
Duke went to Michigan and the young Wolverines took Duke into overtime before losing.
In the championship game, after falling behind, Duke came back and won by 20.
The Blue Devils won a third match the next fall in Cameron and Michigan went on to lose in the Finals again, this time to UNC after Chris Webber’s notorious timeout and subsequent technical.
Michigan learned nothing collectively and not one of those guys won a championship until Juwan Howard was at the very end of his career, and the end of Miami’s bench when the Heat owned the NBA.
This is an intelligent and unselfish team. You can’t predict the future, but you can predict this: the lessons learned Wednesday won’t be lost on it.
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