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Next Up - Virginia Tech

A chance to wash the bad State taste out

RALEIGH, NC - FEBRUARY 19: Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) controls the ball during an NCAA Men’s basketball game between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Duke Blue Devils on February 19, 2020 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC.
Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 1999, when Jason Williams was a freshman, Duke lost its first two games in New York to Stanford and UConn.

Duke-Virginia Tech Game Info

  • Time: 8:00
  • Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Video: ESPN2

Williams got on the bus smiling and was immediately told by the upperclassmen to wipe it off his face. He was a Blue Devil and losing wasn’t something you smile about.

Another player at another time said that a loss at Duke was like a death in the family.

So you can imagine what happened behind the scenes after Coach K said his team failed to compete in Raleigh this week.

We’re not talking about yelling and a fierce week of practice although it wouldn’t be surprising. What has always intrigued us about Coach K, and made us wish we could be a fly on the wall, is how he deals with failure.

His predecessor, Bill Foster, dreaded it to the point where it would affect upcoming games that hadn’t been played.

Not Mike Krzyzewski. He sees it as a learning opportunity. So while we expect he has certainly challenged his team’s basic toughness and willingness to compete, we expect he’s also challenged their hearts and character.

It brings to mind a JJ Redick story.

After - we think - his sophomore season, Coach K called him in to his office and told him he wasn’t worthy of being a national champion. He wasn’t committed enough, didn’t work hard enough.

He pushed the right buttons with him because Redick came back in superb condition and showed that he had the heart of a champion.

The question for Saturday, and the rest of the season, is: how will this team respond to not just failure but failure of effort?

Because at Duke that’s a cardinal sin. Nobody likes to lose but you can’t always be the best team. You can try very hard to be the best you, however, and the best team you can be. And if you are then you can live with the results.

We’re not sure anyone slept well after the State game.

Our guess is that they’ll come out and show immense fight against Virginia Tech. That doesn’t mean they’ll win obviously but the Hokies offer a chance at redemption after one of the worst efforts Duke has seen in a long time.

The specifics don’t matter much, and in a sense even the players don’t matter much. What does matter is that everyone who wears that jersey lives up to what it represents. Call it what you want, the Brotherhood, the Long Blue Line, damned Dukies, whatever. A lot of guys have worked hard to make Duke what it is.

We think this Duke team will live up to it Saturday night. We hope the fans in Cameron, downstairs and up, do too. We’ll be needed, not because of Virginia Tech, although we have immense respect for where that program is going. We’ll be needed because we few, we happy few, we fans of brotherhood, know what the standard is too. And we can help get them there.