Saturday was a huge day for Duke as the Blue Devils just destroyed Georgia Tech and on the road too. And road games have not been easy for this young Duke team, the youngest, coach Jon Scheyer says, that Duke has ever had.
Duke won by 43, exactly doubling up on the Yellow Jackets, but that isn’t the only measure of how well the young Devils did.
Nor is the shooting - 55.7 percent overall. And it wasn’t the rebounding either, though that was tremendous at 43 to Tech’s 22.
Duke’s defense was outstanding, holding Tech to 30.9 percent.
And that was impressive too, but not what impressed us most.
What really struck us was the confidence of this team. Duke had a lot of advantages, to be sure. They were bigger, stronger, faster and more talented. But they usually are. And it hasn’t always mattered.
Duke has played young because they are young. However, in this game, they played with maturity and confidence. They made it look easy, not least of all by taking care of the ball.
Kyle Filipowski had three turnovers and Mark Mitchell had two. Dereck Lively, who is back in the starting lineup, had none and neither did Tyrese Proctor. In fact, only four players had turnovers.
Duke also had wonderful ball movement. This team is young, as noted, but at times they have managed to move the ball beautifully.
For those who haven’t figured it out, this is because of coaching. So is the outstanding defense. So is the improvement we’ve seen from Lively, Proctor and Whitehead, among others.
There has been a tendency from fans and media alike to say BUT SCHEYER ISN’T DOING WHAT COACH K DID.
News flash: Jon Scheyer is not Mike Krzyzewski. But guess what? When he was 34 and starting at Duke, Coach K was not the Coach K we came to know either. His players respected him, but the “concerned Iron Dukes” wanted him gone and one local journalist said he would run him out of town.
Scheyer’s burden is that he has to follow a legend. It takes nerves to do that in the first place, and it will take more than one season for Scheyer to really define himself.
If you can step back out of Krzyzewski’s shadow though, what we see is a guy who has a) recruited brilliantly, b) is starting with an exceptionally young team, c) is teaching well and d) highly respected by his players.
There have been some hysterical reactions to Duke’s struggles with some ridiculous headlines implying that Duke is imploding.
Only it’s not. If you look more closely, turnovers, which were a real problem, are down. The ball movement is sharper. A team is coming into focus despite youth compounded by key injuries.
And while a lot of credit goes to the players and their individual improvement, a lot goes to Scheyer too.
There’s still a long ways to go of course and it’s not like progress is ever a straight line. There will be setbacks.
But there’s a lot of good stuff going on too. The transition has seen some bumps, but in general, a young coach and a young team have done very well. Duke fans should be excited.