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Some Final Thoughts On Duke-Gonzaga

Man was that fun.

NCAA Basketball: Continental Tire Challenge-Duke at Gonzaga
Nov 26, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) makes a pass under the basket as Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren (34) defends the basket during the second half at T-Mobile Arena. 
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Before we move on to Ohio State, just a few last things about Friday’s win over Gonzaga.

We thought, on balance, that Duke was the better team not just at the buzzer but throughout the game. This was primarily because Duke’s defense made it really difficult for Gonzaga to do the things it wanted to do.

Not, however, impossible. Gonzaga is a brilliant passing team and it’s more fun to watch them than it is to play them. They’re extraordinarily well coached.

It was a remarkable win by Duke for a number of reasons. First, Paolo Banchero was brilliant in the first half but cramps nearly shut him out of the second. Second, Duke had to stop that brilliant attack which puts on immense pressure. And third, at least offensively, Duke got very little from Jeremy Roach, Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin.

The three combined to shoot just 6-25 and just 1-9 on threes (Griffin didn’t take any threes).

The brilliance of Banchero, Wendell Moore and Mark Williams compensated for that but still, it’s hardly ideal.

Keels showed his inexperience by telegraphing drives for much of the second half. Roach had some key moments, not least of all hitting a late shot that gave Duke some separation but in general, the backcourt had some real issues.

Given those factors, it’s remarkable that Duke could upset a team as talented and brilliantly coached as the Zags.

Gonzaga will improve too of course, but should they play again, we’d love to see more discretion, better three point shooting, and Griffin fully incorporated and lethal on both ends.

Look at it this way. Peg it wherever you want, Duke was not hitting on all cylinders Friday. It still managed to knock off a great team.

The potential of this group is just huge. It doesn't mean they’ll reach it. It doesn’t even mean they beat Ohio State. But it is tantalizing.