Why Duke’s Season Wasn’t a Total Failure

Many believe this season was a disappointment for the Duke Blue Devils. However, it’s odd to think of Duke’s season as a disappointment considering everything they accomplished.

They finished the season 28-9, which would be considered a really good season for most teams. They also won the ACC tournament, where they had to go through Clemson, Louisville, the eventual national champion North Carolina and Notre Dame.

The word “disappointing” is still thrown around and used to describe their season. Sure, they had a really talented roster and maybe they should have won more games or gone further in the NCAA tournament. However, describing their season as “disappointing” is unfair and inaccurate.

They were the obvious preseason number one to start the season and a heavy national championship favorite. They had a roster of what many people considered to be their most talented roster in a decade.

As the preseason progressed, we watched their players fall like dominoes. Those players included their three top recruits.

Jayson Tatum sat out the first eight games with a foot injury and eventually made his college debut against Maine. Marques Bolden missed the first eight games as well with a leg injury. Number one overall ranked recruit Harry Giles also tore his ACL twice in high school, which lead him to miss the first eleven games.

Duke Basketball

The Blue Devils went 4-3 in Coach K’s absence earlier this year (Photo/ Gerry Broome).

On top of the freshmen injuries, senior captain and team leader Amile Jefferson reinjured his foot, which caused him to miss a couple games. Grayson Allen, who was a player of the year candidate at the beginning of the season, was suspended one game after another tripping incident.

Player injuries are something that is a part of the game and unfortunately happen quite frequently. However, when your coach is injured, that’s a whole different story.

Mike Krzyzewski missed a month after undergoing midseason back surgery. In his absence, the Blue Devils went 4-3 under interim head coach Jeff Capel. In that month, he banned the team from the locker room and from wearing any team or Duke gear.

The Blue Devils still managed to bounce back. After falling to NC State at home for the first time since 1995, Duke managed to string out a win streak of seven games. That included a win against eighth-ranked North Carolina, 14th-ranked Virginia and 20th-ranked Notre Dame.

Just when it looked like Duke was headed for disaster, they pulled it together as only Duke can. With everything they went through with the only self-inflicted wound to be that of Grayson Allen, Duke’s season was actually somewhat impressive.

Duke Basketball

Duke players celebrate their ACC tournament championship in March (Photo/ Getty Images).

They were one game away from another 30-win season. They beat the eventual national champions two out of three games, including one in the ACC tournament. They were also the first team to win four games in a row to win the ACC tournament. Many believed the ACC to be the best and hardest conference in the country. Making history that same year is nothing short of impressive.

Duke basketball comes with exceptionally high expectations. We expect them to be good whether you love them or hate them.

When they lose nine games in the regular season and fall in the second round of the NCAA tournament, many are quick to assume the season was a failure. They didn’t win the national championship, but come next season, there will be another banner hanging in Cameron.

Needles to say, it could have been a lot worse.

 

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