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FanTake: Exactly How Good is this Duke Basketball Team?

fantakeThere are several more regular season ACC games, but Duke should win most if not all of these unless they have a serious meltdown.

First of all, I don’t believe this year’s Duke basketball team is overpoweringly good like, say, a Hurley/Laettner team. This is a young team that is exceptional but it lacks seasoned experience in Division I basketball.

There have also been some games Duke shouldn’t have lost—to Notre Dame, NC State, and Miami. The Blue Devils also barely defeated Florida State by three and Georgia Tech by six. Fortunately, Coach K realized that, though he eschews using a zone defense, he needed to use it with particular teams and Duke has benefited since.

When this Duke team needed to, it’s come up with some impressive wins. Perhaps the most impressive win was an away game against Virginia by seven points. This is a Virginia team that some feel is the best team in the country, besides Kentucky. The Cavaliers have defeated a fine Maryland squad, Notre Dame, UNC, and Louisville—all Top 25 programs.

The second most impressive win for the Blue Devils was a 10-point victory at Wisconsin. Virginia and Wisconsin have remained in the top five for virtually the entire season. Wisconsin is an excellent team that could possibly make the Final Four, but interestingly, Duke appears to be about the only top 25 team they have played. They’ve had some pretty good wins against Oklahoma, Georgetown, and Iowa twice, but they lack top wins.

Duke also overcame Michigan State. The Spartans have had their struggles; however, they’ve won against both Ohio State and Iowa. Tom Izzo often has his teams ready for the NCAA Tournament regardless of their season record. They are always a threat.

Duke defeated a UNC club that features wins over Ohio State and Louisville. Though somewhat erratic, I believe this UNC team could give most top teams a run for their money on a given night. As always, the Tar Heels are very talented.

Nationally, Duke is ranked fifth in points scored, 30th in rebounding, 27th in assists, and fifth in field goal percentage. That says a lot. If Duke plays well in the ACC Tournament and can ride a wave of excellent, mentally tough basketball into March Madness, it might make a deep run.

One scary factor is Jahlil Okafor’s body. He tweaked his knee in a recent game, then sprained an ankle against UNC. One is tempted to think these injuries are incidental because a usually cautious Coach K allowed him to continue play in both games.

He’s in a protective boot and questionable for the next couple games. Hopefully, he will stay healthy.

This FanTake was written and submitted by Steve Fortosis. FanTakes are a place for you the fan to voice your opinions.  If you are interested in writing your own FanTake, just send us an email.

2 comments

  1. I don’t think this team is as great as the 91-92 team either but even they had close wins against unranked conference teams (91-89 at home against Maryland and 98-97 at Clemson) with a loss at Wake Forest….  of course they had a bunch of blowouts up and down the schedule schedule around those games but it gives me enough reason to not put too much stake in the close games.

    I also think that the days of great teams are mostly behind us with the best talent leaving after a year or two rather than developing the continuity and chemistry that teams with that talent staying together for three or four which makes the comparison of today’s teams against teams of decades past nearly impossible.

    With this lesser standard that set on current college basketball, this team is very very good and just a bit short of great.  They have the country’s most dominant offensive post player in Okafor, they have a senior team leader in Cook and couple the nation’s best backcourt (arguable) with an freshman that plays his best in the biggest games.  They have a wing that’s their most versatile player that is a triple threat on the offensive side of the ball and their best defender on the other side.  After that, they are good but not great.  Jefferson does his job well as a role player, as does M. Jones but they are not the elite talent that those other four starters are and Plumlee and Allen off the bench could be real contributors with more minutes.

    I would have never thought that this team would get better by subtraction but their best moments came after Sulaimon was dismissed.  Touching on those losses again, they were both with Sheed still on the team and this could have been part of the problem.  The GT game was a classic trap game after playing ND and UVA on the road (4 of 5 previous games were on the road) and right before the rematch with ND and FSU has been a thorn in the Devil’s side recently which made me happy to get the wins.

    The wins against UNC and UVA were great, in that, they showed poise down the stretch to comeback when many were ready to call the game…  these were the kind of games that Duke would have lost last year.  On the downside of things, free throw shooting most likely cost them the first ND game and could have finished them in the UNC game.

    Offensively, this team is very balanced with inside and perimeter scoring along with guys that can get into the lane and score or make plays for others.  Defensively, this team can put pressure on the perimeter and have made strides with the zone but show little resistance at the rim and give up too many high percentage shots.  The difference between this team and a great team, like UK, is that Duke will probably go home if it struggles with scoring in a single elimination tournament whereas UK can struggle to score, and they often do, and still have a great chance to advance because of their defense.

  2. I agree with Mike. You can’t compare teams of today’s times with those teams. You also can’t say that inexperience is a factor either, cause all your upper tier teams reload every one to two years. The only reason people are skeptical to mention Duke winning it all is Kentucky. Duke can play with anybody in the land, and if K stays focused and plays the 3 bench players a fair amount and keeps an open mind on changing his defensive looks, I like this team in this era as well as any out there. Kentucky is very good, not unbeatable though. Best 4 teams in the country are Duke, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Virginia. Watching Virginia though is like watching paint dry. Duke did show rest of teams how to play them, and that’s attack and run run run. I believe as long as Duke gets a healthy Okafor back, this team can win it all