It did not take long for the overreactions to start after Duke lost to Miami, sending the then #2 rated team to its first conference loss on the season. But for some, we have seen this before and know it is but one game of a long season.
And if the season is long and full of twists and turns slipped by Duke’s young roster they were given a wake-up call last evening.
I tweeted my surprise that Vegas labeled Duke a 15 point favorite over a hot Miami team. In fact, I warned all that it did not matter what one of the hundreds of imperfect ratings said the Hurricanes were ranked for they had been playing great and confident basketball.
I certainly do not think Duke overlooked Miami. They just did not implement their game plan while the Hurricanes did. It’s better to seek the answer to those backdoor cuts now than later for the Blue Devils.
A lot of realities hit last evening. The ACC is really not as bad as the hype and the Hurricanes will move into the Top 25. Today’s media is all about what have you done for me lately with little effort made on how things fit into the big picture.
Duke will now be seen as vulnerable when in fact, they have been all along. The reason is that there are a lot of older teams around the nation due to extended eligibility via COVID.
There are a lot of pesky-good basketball teams not ranked at this time and the Top 25 will continue to feature all kinds of upsets. Teams do not stop practicing or getting better even if they have experienced a slow start. And they are hungry when things start to roll in the right direction.
This will not be the last loss for Duke. In fact, they travel to Wake Forest next and that game now has added significance. And yes, they can actually lose two in a row in league play which was seen as unfathomable a week ago.
So what Duke will do is let go of the loss after some film study and move forward. At some point, this team had to learn the lesson that these ACC games will be battles and teams will seek to build their resume vs Duke at night end and afternoon out each week through March and hopefully beyond.
If one were to have listened to Mike Krzyzewski during his post-game presser after the Georgia Tech win they may have realized that he saw this coming. The break in play cannot be used as an excuse but it was a catalyst to why the teams’ chemistry was altered.
Things will not get any easier as the reality that the league still has some good teams getting better. Duke must improve and be ready for all kinds of attempts to neutralize their size and take advantage of some who are going through the wars of college basketball in their first season.
Duke played young last night because they are young. It is going to take them reaching deep mentally to shake this loss with Wake Forest on the horizon for the residue can build and linger if allowed.
I think the team will be fine but I see adversity as the one learning tool that makes or breaks you in March. Duke fans can hope for the latter as the team will seek to find their groove again but once a loss is in the books, it can get even harder before it gets better.
We will learn a lot about this group in how it responds in their next outing. But just as I warned Miami was dangerous and certainly not a double-digit underdog I am telling you that once a team blinks the battle becomes more mental.
Add the mental stresses of the game to physical ones and it can tire a team out quickly.
That said, Duke needs to find its energy center again. They need to figure out the strengths of their identity and next time out take advantage of their height as the Hurricanes did with their quickness at the guard spots.
The battle is mental at this point and time. And Duke needs to respond after losing one at home. But Duke was a bucket away from closing this one out in the other direction. So keep that in perspective. They were not blown out of the gym, but then again, that does not mean they can’t be.