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DeCourcy: One And Done Has Worked For Duke, Kentucky

Interesting argument

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Wisconsin v Duke
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06: Tyus Jones #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a three point basket late in the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’ve said for a long time that teams with less talent but more cohesion would be at an advantage in the one-and-done era.

We think that’s largely been true although Duke and Kentucky both won titles with very young teams.

Kentucky had a big advantage in 2012 with Anthony Davis but more importantly they had a tremendous leader in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

As brilliant as Davis was, his fellow freshman drove that team to greatness.

For Duke in 2015, two exceptional leader got them there in Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones,

Mike DeCourcy argues that both Duke and Kentucky have been highly successful and he’s basically right. Part of the perception problem is that fans of both schools define success at a very high level. Final Fours are expected.

However, getting there is never easy and winning the final two games is extraordinarily difficult.

And it’s important to note that, strictly speaking, Coach K is not really that interested in a whole team of one-and-done players. His ideal in this era is 2015. Yes Duke had Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Jones and Allen, but the Blue Devils also had Cook and Amile Jefferson who had brilliant years, and Marshall Plumlee too.

We tend to forget it now but Duke also had Rasheed Sulaimon before Coach K kicked him off the team.

Transfers have made that more difficult. Chase Jeter would be a senior this fall and would have helped a lot. Derrick Thornton should have matured into a solid point guard and would be a junior (his minutes and most of his stats were down this year at Southern Cal).

K’s approach and Calipari’s look the same but really they’re not. Duke has a real interest in having what are called program guys, players who will be around to help train the younger guys and to provide stability in big moments.

That’s why next year, we think Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier, Alex O’ Connell and Jordan Goldwire will play key roles. They’ll know all the drills and stations and can help teach the three systems Duke has - offense, defense and communication.

We didn’t mention Justin Robinson but we’ve said before that we think he’s an unusual walk-on who contributes far more to the team than most people would suspect.

To get back to the main issue though, while we think our basic point is sound (experience and cohesion usually trumps raw talent) DeCourcy makes some good points.

So maybe there is an amendment to be made: no matter how young or old a team is, it needs to have strong leadership to win championships.

Duke had Christian Laettner in 1991-92, Shane Battier in 2001, Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith in 2010 and Cook, Jones and Jefferson in 2015.

Kentucky had Kidd-Gilchrist in 2012. Villanova had several leaders on this year’s title team.

You can find any number of ways to arrange the pieces of a championship team, but without leadership, it ain’t happening.

As much as Duke and Kentucky dislike each other (and let’s be honest, Kentucky people dislike Duke a lot more than the other way around), we do notice one common theme emerging and that’s this: both fan bases are frustrated that they don’t get to know their players better.

It’s nice when fans can bond with players and in one year, that’s hard to do. That’s one reason why Allen became such a beloved figure at Duke. We got to see him at his best, then his worst, and in the long run, as a redemptive figure.

As much as Duke fans enjoyed seeing guys like Kyrie Irving, Jabari Parker and Justise Winslow, we didn’t get a chance to form that sort of a bond with them. From what we’re sensing from Big Blue Nation, that sadness has settled in there as well (look - a bonding moment between us).

We don’t begrudge them their success. We still follow their NBA careers and there’s a lot to be said for being seriously wealthy, especially for guys who grew up without very much. You’re 18 or 19 and you can provide for your family, maybe even lift them out of poverty? What must that feel like?

We just wish we’d gotten to see them grow into men like Allen, Cook and Jefferson did. That’s something that’s been lost at both programs.

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