I’m a firm believer in the theory that each game a basketball team plays, especially college basketball, is a snapshot. Each snapshot is a moment in time and a chance to measure growth. That’s why despite a rough 3 game stretch, that saw Duke not play particularly well and that culminated in a drubbing at the hands of Virginia Tech, I never thought it was the end of the world.
Duke has dealt with a plethora of distractions and set-backs both mental and physical that might have crushed a team with lesser leadership. Those distractions are far from over with Coach K having to take a leave of absence for health reasons. It’s amazing that the chatter around a team that is 13 and 2 from inside and outside the fan base has been supremely negative. You’d think, based on social media and fan morale that Duke was 2 and 13 instead of 13 and 2. It’s even more surprising, although it shouldn’t be at this point, that a huge contingent of Duke fans believe the season is lost, that the sky is falling and that Duke won’t be able to recover from the various issues that have plagued the team thus far. Duke, in the three games before facing Georgia Tech, looked confused, disjointed and completely out of sync. But discount the mitigating circumstances is to show a lack of understanding of both human nature, common sense and college basketball. Historically Duke teams have had issues around this time of year. There are obstacles for most teams around finals and holiday time. There are less practices, less time and less reps. This isn’t singularly a Duke issue but when paired with the other hardships it’s remarkable they are where they are in terms of rank.
Duke has dealt with adversity extremely well. The injuries to nearly every scholarship player at one time or another this season, the Grayson Allen incident and subsequent suspension and now the health of head coach Mike Krzyzewski – all of that while trying to integrate fresh faces and achieve a modicum of continuity. I’d compare it, on a smaller scale, to a football drive where penalties or negative plays put you in a 3rd and long situation. Broadcasters often talk about an NFL offense being off schedule because of those setbacks. Instead of being where most teams are in January they are still turning the pages of the October or November calendar. Duke is simply off schedule but I genuinely believe that there are plays drawn up to deal with this 3rd and long – Duke will have fits and starts but will be fine. They simply haven’t caught up yet.
The game against Georgia Tech, just like the game against Virginia Tech are snapshots. The hope is that continuity in practice and the further acclimation of players that were injured will allow Duke to catch up to the elite teams. It’s going to take time and there will be more losses, more setbacks but the hope, for Duke fans, is that the picture that develops closely resembles the one most of us envisioned in the off-season and ends in a championship banner.