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1. Getting hot at the perfect time — Despite an ugly loss to Wake, the final regular season game against UNC should have opened many eyes including Duke lovers and haters. This was seemingly, in my opinion, the first game Jabari and Rodney completely played off of one another.
While Jabari was driving and finishing play after play, Rodney would sneak out to the perimeter while all the focus was still on Parker inside, and knock down shot after shot. This was possibly Duke’s best 3-Point Shooting game in the past 6 or 7 contests. Even though Andre has struggled he’s still playing defense and trying to score in multiple ways. Quinn Cook also seemed to magically gain confidence in this game. The momentum is finally going up for everyone at a perfect time in the season.
2. Depth — I’ve stated this in previous articles and ill cite it here once again. Even though K doesn’t use the depth as fans would like him to, once Duke begins play in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, you will see the bench utilized more, especially due to fewer days of rest between games. This will ultimately be the difference in games down the stretch against tough teams with very short benches (Syracuse, UConn, Ohio State, etc.)
3. Talent+Drive=Success — There is no doubt that this Duke team is talented. In fact, many were labeling this season’s team the most talented since the 2000-01 team (just wait till next season). The question throughout this season was, does Duke have the hunger and competitive fire that other top Contenders have shown this season (Florida, Arizona, Louisville, SDSU). Let’s face it, this can still be a question looked at without an answer, but Duke has shown glimpses of that this season. Some good, some not so good.
In Duke’s early contests against Kansas and Arizona, for the first 25-30 minutes, the Blue Devils seemed like the better team. But then something happens, like the desire to win and put the nail in the coffin suddenly disappears from the hearts and minds of our beloved Dukies. In other games, (Michigan, at Pitt, UNC, Cuse) it seemed like they were focused for all 40 minutes and the only thing that was on everybody’s mind was to grind, grind, and keep grinding until the final buzzer sounds. I believe when banners, trophies, and championships are on the line the focused, hungry version of Duke will show up.
4. Tyler “Big Shot” Thornton — I know what you’re thinking. “Tyler? Why him, he doesn’t even average five points a game.” I know all of you think I’m crazy for putting this in a list as of why we should be confident in our Devils. But Tyler does the little things, which matters more in the postseason. Ty is also a senior, don’t tell me he isn’t hungry and he isn’t going to play his heart out to end his college career on the highest note possible.
Tyler has been through it all in his career at Duke. From playing with 2010 Champs Nolan and Kyle, hitting big time shots in big time games, to the heartbreaking upset to Lehigh. He has all the intangibles to play a perfect role for this season’s mostly young and inexperienced team. He can hit the three, he plays stingy defense, he is Duke’s best vocal leader, he knows what to do in sticky situations and he has failed and succeeded in many occasions at Duke. If Duke hangs banners after this season you better believe Mr. Thornton had a whole lot to do with it.
P.S. We have a halfway decent coach sitting on the bench directing and fueling the team as well. He’s won his fair share of games and Championships at Duke as well.