Despite the loss in the ACCT to Notre Dame there are many reasons for optimism for this Duke team. Even with the clear mental and physical fatigue there are some keys that can take this team far in March provided they have good match-ups and stay out of foul trouble.
Firstly, at the point guard spot: Derryck Thornton, in 22 minutes mind you, had 4 assists to only 1 turnover. This gives you a small sense of what the freshman can do and he did this against an experienced back-court. He also committed no personal fouls despite possible being Duke’s best on ball defender and also managed to grab a steal. The NCAAT is about guard play and there is definitely a benefit to having the freshman on the court going forward.
Secondly depth, Duke has seen improvement in center Chase Jeter who gave Duke solid post minutes with 14 and scored 7 points in the loss to Notre Dame. This is not the same Chase Jeter from a month ago and Duke has reason to be optimistic. Duke even got 6 minutes out of transfer Sean Obi, an unheard of number to even fathom a month ago.
Thirdly, rest, Duke has some time to rest. This is crucial for a team with players that have logged heavy minutes. It’s a time to get bodies right, minds right and to realize that this team, despite fatigue, foul trouble and depth issues took a good Notre Dame team to overtime. They had an opportunity to win the game but the ball didn’t bounce their way.