clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Strange Few Days For Duke Basketball

Ending with some exhilaration and optimism

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Michigan State vs Duke
Mar 31, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Marques Bolden (20) and Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44) go for a rebound during the first half in the championship game of the east regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Capital One Arena. 
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday was a weird day to be a Duke fan.

It was going to be no matter what, considering the Final Four would occur minus Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Coach K. This was the day Blue Devil fans had been dreaming of ever since Williamson’s commitment cemented the greatest recruiting class in modern college basketball history, expected after the season began with a drubbing of Kentucky and this team’s potential was shown, but then had ripped away by a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State last weekend. Despite all the attention, accolades, and expectations, Duke would not be on the court for college basketball’s biggest spectacle.

And yet, somehow, the Blue Devils still dominated the news in a way that made Final Four Saturday an emotional rollercoaster.

First, there was the early afternoon news (if you can call it that) of accused improprieties between Williamson’s mother and Nike. Of course, this elicited the expected wave of Duke-hating reactions across social media and some members of the media prone to shooting from the hip. But, at the moment, the allegations are simply that: allegations, and from an extremely less-than-reputable source. It appears that the program did all the necessary due diligence on its recruits before the season, and is looking into the matter again following the story.

It could be something, and it could be nothing. We might learn more, or the story might fade into obscurity. Regardless, such news was not a fun thing for Duke fans to deal with on an already challenging day.

Then the ball was tossed and the Final Four began. Watching the games probably caused even more consternation amongst the Blue Devil faithful: none of the four teams looked dominant, leaving Duke fans to wonder what could have been. Personally, watching was a painful experience, but one from which I couldn’t turn away.

But just as suddenly as momentum seemed to shift last Sunday against Michigan State, the news became much more palatable, and, dare I say it, positive.

It began with Texas Tech exerting control over Michigan State, eventually leading to an upset of the Spartans. To some, this might have caused even more frustration over what could have been; indeed, the Spartans’ performance Saturday night showed that they were not the world beaters they appeared to be against Duke, but instead a solid, but flawed, team that played their best game against the Blue Devils (and, as the final score indicated, they needed every iota of that effort to claim a victory). But for others (including myself), Michigan State’s loss was a positive development, ensuring that the 2019 National Champion would not be a “blue blood” program that could use the result to claim bragging rights over Duke. Moreover, seeing a university and a program that just a year ago was embroiled in scandal over covering up sexual assault (how quickly we seem to forget!) claim the title would have been almost as disgusting as watching North Carolina raise banners while their academic scandal was ignored.

And then, the night completed its 180 with the potential news that Tre Jones was returning for his sophomore year at Duke, first via a somewhat cryptic Instagram post, but followed this morning by reporting indicating that the decision is close to a done deal. You could probably hear the collective sigh of relief of millions of Duke fans as the news spread. With Jones, next year’s team remains a solid national title contender (an assertion that will be discussed in more detail in this and other spaces once the decision is final). What’s more, Duke will return more contributors on next year’s team than any of the OAD-led teams of the recent past, a development that is sure to placate many who felt another Elite 8 exit meant the sky was falling on Duke’s dominance.

Duke did not take a shot Saturday night at the Final Four. But the program was omnipresent in the news cycle nonetheless. In the modern landscape of college basketball, there may be no offseason for Blue Devil fans. Let’s hope our hearts can take the extra stress.

If you're going to shop Amazon please start here and help DBR
DBR Auctions|Blue Healer Auctions| Drop us a line