It was an odd regular season for Duke, but their late season push has them in them in prime position to make a run at their sixth National Championship. The Blue Devils are the number two seed in the East. A tough region which also features Villanova, Baylor, Florida, Virginia, and SMU. However after winning the ACC Tournament, Duke has to be a tournament favourite.
Duke Peaking at the Right Time
On December 21st, then Duke captain Grayson Allen intentionally tripped a player from Elon University. It was the third time Allen had committed such an act dating back to last season where he tripped players on Florida State and Louisville. To make matters worse Allen proceeded to throw a tantrum you would see from a five year-old in a supermarket on the bench.
Many expected Duke head coach Mike Krzyewski to give Allen a hefty suspension. However he was only forced to sit one game. He was also stripped of his captaincy, but there was still outrage at the lack disciplinary action from many social media.
Duke is one of the most dominant college basketball programs in history, coach Mike Krzyzewski has played a huge part. Coach K has 1056 wins, the most in NCAA history. In January he underwent back surgery to remove part of a herniated disk and missed seven games. Assistant coach Jeff Capel filled in as head coach. The Blue Devils went 4-3 during that stretch.
Coach K’s Return
On February 4th Coach K returned to the sidelines when Duke took on Pitt. The Blue Devils went on to win five games in a row and looked like the team people had been expecting all along. However they followed that up with a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to Syracuse, a game which Duke led for most of. After that they lost 55-50 to Miami with a sad offensive display. The Blue Devils capped their regular season with a tough 90-83 loss to North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Duke headed into the toughest conference tournament in the country with something to prove. The ACC had nine teams receive NCAA Tournament bids, six of which are a five seed or better. The Blue Devils took down Clemson in the opening round. They then knocked off the number two seed in the Midwest Louisville, they followed up that with a semi final win over the South Region’s number one team North Carolina. They Capped it off with a 75-69 win over Notre Dame to capture the tournament crown.
The Big Three
Duke has played most of the season with a seven to eight man rotation. Putting more pressure on their top three guys. Sophomore guard Luke Kennard, freshman forward Jason Tatum, and the tripper himself, junior guard Grayson Allen have carried the team.
Kennard led the team with 20.1 points per game, and was named First team All-ACC. Tatum, a highly sought after recruit has gotten better and better as the season has worn on and is the top NBA prospect of the three. Grayson Allen clearly has his issues, but the guy can play. Duke is at their best when Allen puts his stamp on a game. Very few players in College Basketball can finish at the rim like Allen can.
Time for the Madness
The Blue Devils impressive ACC Tournament Win showed that this team is as good as they have been all year. They’ve been through adversity and for the most part have come out on top. They’re in a tough East Region but with what they’ve done over the past two weeks should be the favourite to come out of it. Brace yourselves, because there’s a good chance we see the Blue Devils cut down the nets in Phoenix.