A Duke loss, especially at home, always provokes people. Walking out of Cameron we heard people actually complaining about how the team played, which we’ll get back to. Let’s start with the team’s reaction.
Wendell Moore took responsibility which is appropriate. He’s the captain and just didn’t play very well.
Neither did Jeremy Roach, or Trevor Keels, Joey Baker or Theo John. But it’s not like they woke up and decided to play poorly. This is a team that is recovering from illness.
Moore missed all his three points attempts, including the critical one, and had six turnovers. Keels shot just 2-11. Roach was repeatedly burned by Miami’s Charlie Moore. And Baker and John only played six and three minutes respectively.
Of the rotation players, only Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams and AJ Griffin played reasonably well.
Even they were at times erratic.
What people don't realize sometimes is the razor fine edge of conditioning elite athletes live on and Duke is nowhere near it right now. We saw it with the turnovers and Duke’s inability to stop Miami from getting close to the bucket. This was most obvious with Roach, who is normally a terrific defender. He just couldn’t keep up with Moore. And Moore is a good player and was great against Duke, But he’s transferred three times. Guys who are consistently as good as he was Saturday don’t do that.
Moore scored two points against Dayton and eight against Clemson and Lipscomb.
What it reminds us of is Baylor last season.
The Bears had a tough time with Covid. They had to sit out three full weeks last February and when they started back up, 2-17 Iowa State almost beat them.
Duke’s situation is not nearly that bad but the Devils basically had to stop basketball activities for a week or so and no one so far has detailed just who got how sick. But based on minutes and performance, it seems obvious that Moore, Roach, Baker and John were particularly hard hit.
Mike Krzyzewski has always imposed an iron will on his team: no excuses, no feeling sorry for yourself. Play hard. Be Duke.
And we’re sure that he’s doing that now, if only because that’s what he’s always done. But he understands what’s going on here, obviously much better than the rest of us. Duke is no longer sick, but conditioning is off and it will take a while for Duke to regain its form.
We thought Duke would beat Georgia Tech but there was no guarantee. Duke won as much because that team can’t shoot as anything.
Miami was different. It’s a good, confident team that realized it had an opportunity.
And as far as it goes, Wake Forest on Wednesday won’t be easy either. The Deacs are a confident team and, at 13-3, could use a big win to boost their tournament resumé. The question for Duke is how fast it can shed the rust. And it’s tricky because you have to balance rest and work while the team recovers.
But they will recover. We’re not comparing this Duke team to last year’s historic Baylor team, but it’s still instructive. Baylor got started again on February 23rd. After the near disaster vs. Iowa State, the Bears lost to Kansas 71-58 and needed overtime to beat West Virginia.
The tournament started less than a month later and as memory serves, they did okay in that.
Duke has a lot more time. The Blue Devils will be fine too. Everyone should just be patient as they get back to full strength and then let’s see what happens.