There is no mistaking the Duke Blue Devil offense this year because its mantra was “live and die by the three”. Last night in Greensboro, NC in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils never got a chance to live and die by the three because the guard play the team has exhibited as of late showed that there are not enough basketballs to go around in Duke’s backcourt. In a stunning display of selfish play and individualism, Duke walked their way out of the tournament by denying fundamental team basketball.
Austin Rivers is a great young talent, but I think Duke fans, like myself, have seen enough of him trying to impose an NBA style approach to offense in game that demands team play. Duke’s strength since Coach K has been there is that they have been the ultimate TEAM. Many years they have not had the deepest talent pool to go along with their team leaders, but they have always played unselfish basketball and have always tightened the reins on defense when the games got tight.
Who can forget Associate Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski as Point Guard for the Blue Devils in the late 1990’s pounding his hands on the court and inspiring his team to stiffen up and focus. Well, they could have used Wojo the other night because their guard play was uninspired and I bet Coach Wojciechowksi and Associate Coach Chris Collins were about to come unglued. Coach K was already there, it could be seen in his face all night.
There are two things that are hard to comprehend for fans like myself. First, why did they not continue to go inside to the Plumlee brothers and try to get the Lehigh post players in foul trouble? One wonders if this was even stressed on the bench because it sure didn’t take place in the game and the other thing difficult to understand is why Rivers, Curry and Dawkins don’t get their necks yanked when they continue to force bad shots. There was a huge gap last night between the three point line and the foul line and the only Duke player to find that range was Sophomore Forward Josh Hairston, who had a nice touch from that range. Not to mention that some of his shots were very timely and seemed to keep Duke in the game.
The biggest surprise watching them this year was the lack of court leadership. It appeared to be non existent many times throughout the year. There was no lack of this when Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurly, Shane Battier, or Kyle Singler was on the court but then again, those teams exemplified teamwork and all won the National Championship.
I would like to see Seth Curry move to the true number one and for the Blue Devils to reintroduce the Center positon back into their sets. They have plenty of talent work in and out and if the guards want to run at times, they have the talent to do so, but when they have won their Championships they have had an inside presence and nice Inside/Out game. They didn’t have that this year and that is why they are one and done.