Duke is out of the NCAA tournament. They were out before the tournament’s first weekend even started. After Friday’s embarrassing loss to Lehigh, you have to wonder is Duke basketball slipping? This seems like a strange to question for a team went 27-7 that is only 2 years removed from National Title, but since 2004-2005 season the Blue Devils have advanced past the sweet 16 just 1 time.
That being the national championship season of 2010. For the 3rd time in 6 years, Duke didn’t get past the first weekend of the NCAAs. Why am I being critical of team that’s averaged 29 wins since 2005. It’s because when you are the Duke Blue Devils and you are coached by a Hall of Famer like Mike Krzyzewski the standards are not the same as with most basketball programs. They are much much higher. This is a program that from 1986-2004 when to 10 Final Fours. First weekend tournament exits are not what is expected in Durham. What’s going on?
First let me just say Mike Krzyzewski is still one of the best coaches in the business. In what was somewhat of a down year at Duke, the Blue Devils still had wins over two number 1 seeds North Carolina and Michigan State. They also won the Maui Classic defeating Kansas in the Finals. There were some big highlights, but it could also be plainly seen that this edition of Duke Basketball didn’t have much athleticism, couldn’t defend, other than Austin Rivers couldn’t break teams down off the dribble and didn’t have a natural PG.
Honestly it’s a testament to Krzyzewski’s coaching ability that Duke was as successful this season as they were. I think Coach K knew he had milked this team this dry. There’s still no reason that they should have lost to Lehigh even if Ryan Kelly was injured.
What about the original question? Is Duke slipping… the answer is yes, but the problem is fixable. As I’ve pointed out Krzyzewski hasn’t fallen as a coach, but possibly as talent evaluator he has. The Plumlee brothers experiment has to be considered a miss thus far. Andre Dawkins has been a disappointment. Other than Rivers and the one year wonder Kryie Irving name me an elite player in Duke’s last 4 signing classes? Yep that’s what I thought. Rasheed Sulaimon is one the highest ranked guards in the country and he’s coming to Duke next year. He could be the PG that Duke lacked this season, but he’s the only player signed.
As long as Coach K is at Duke, the Blue Devils will be top 20 team, but they must do a better job of talent evaluation. This team is in sore need of some quickness and athleticism. If they don’t get some Duke may find it increasingly difficult to get back to the Final 4.