We think our team has the potential to make a run to a championship after a great game, and we’re ready to pull the plug on the season and look ahead to next year after a bad loss.
Duke basketball fans have already had both of these moments on multiple occasions this season.
We were ready to crown this squad as the best offensive team in Duke history after the season opening blowout against Davidson. We were ready to call this the worst defensive team in Duke history after the near catastrophic upset against Vermont.
We were ready to give up on the 2013-14 season and place all our hopes on Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow after the ugly second half against Clemson.
Now, after Duke’s recent stretch of four dominant wins, including two on the road, many fans are ready to put the Blue Devils back in the discussion of national championship contenders. I hope that’s the case. This group certainly has the potential.
However, nearly every time a team falls short in the postseason, we like to immediately give our assessment about what went wrong. I’m guilty of this. I try to analyze the problems during the game on Twitter like I’m some sort of expert. Then, I write articles about it and give my perspective, as if I’m qualified to do so.
And one of the things we typically fall back on is the argument that “Team X peaked at the wrong time during the season.”
It’s hilarious how often this statement comes up.
A team plays well for a few weeks and it’s decided that they’ve peaked. Duke wins a preseason tournament, such as the Battle 4 Atlantis last season, and we’re concerned that they’re playing too well. The Blue Devils roll off a six game winning streak in February and we’ve decided things can only get worse from here. A team drops a game late in the season and we panic that they don’t have enough momentum headed into the NCAA Tournament.
A poor shooting night against a great defensive team in the Sweet 16 has very little to do with a five-game winning streak in late January. Struggling to stop an underrated mid-major in the second round that’s on fire from the perimeter doesn’t mean a team suddenly isn’t playing well. The NCAA Tournament is about individual match-ups much more so than evaluating the totality of a season. It’s the positive and negative all wrapped up in the one-and-done environment that makes March Madness so special.
The point is – don’t get caught up in the emotion of a few games.
No one would argue that Duke isn’t playing extremely well right now. This is the best the Blue Devils have played all season and last night’s win over Pittsburgh was the most complete game they’ve played all year. Let’s hope everything continues to trend in the right direction.
Maybe it’s the best we’ll see them play this season. Maybe it isn’t.
Maybe they continue to ride the momentum to a big win at Syracuse. Maybe it all comes to a screeching halt.
But let the season play out before making judgement about what this group will look like in March. Three weeks ago, many Duke fans were ready to leave this team for dead. Who knows what we’ll see three weeks from now?