Duke’s basketball season went from one in which many pundits saw the Blue Devils as overachieving to the most embarrassing conclusion to a campaign in the program’s rich history.
Mike Krzyzewski’s team was rolling after winning at Florida State on Feb. 23, finally looking like a possible Final Four squad. But from that point on, Duke barely beat Virginia Tech, which was 4-12 in the ACC, at home in overtime, escaped at 4-12 Wake Forest, was blown out at home by UNC, barely beat the Hokies again in the ACC Tournament, lost to FSU in Atlanta, and lost to No. 15 seed Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament.
That might be the worst close to a season by the Blue Devils since Krzyzewski’s third season at the helm in 1983.
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Duke finished 27-7 overall and 15-3 in the ACC. Here is a look at the Blue Devils’ report card:
Duke offense: The statistics say Duke was a pretty good offensive team this year. Given it had no true playmaker at the point, that’s very true. Mike Krzyzewski also said his team was pretty good with the ball, and for the most part that’s also true. However, he also said late in the season his team was living – and certainly dying – by the 3. The Blue Devils were too perimeter oriented to close the season and it cost them. The Devils were second in the ACC averaging 77.3 points, shot 45.6 from the floor, including a league-leading 37.1 percent from beyond the arc, and were fourth in the ACC in assists. Grade: B-.
Duke defense: This was not the strength it usually is with the Devils, but they improved as the season went on. Duke closed the campaign still one of, if not the, worst defensive teams under Krzyzewski since 1983, but it was making progress. Duke was 10th in field goal percentage defense (43.3), yet was fourth in defending the 3 (31.7). Duke had issues defending the dribble on the perimeter, which was the killer in falling to Lehigh in the NCAA Tournament. Grade: C-.
Duke intangibles: Mike Krzyzewski did an outstanding job until the team fell apart. It’s hard to pin-point how much of that is on him and how much is on a collection of players that just didn’t mesh. The team did improve and in some respects exceeded what it should have accomplished. Going 13-3 in the ACC, even a down ACC, is impressive no matter how you slice it. But that this club so completely caved in late is how it will be remembered, and that’s the deepest intangible you can evaluate. Grade: D.
Duke final grade: Finishing second in the ACC is a positive. Winning at UNC is a positive. Winning the Maui Invitational, beating Michigan State for Krzyzewski’s 903rd career victory are positives, and going 8-0 on the road in league play is a positive. So, despite the negatives that quickly added up at the end of the season, this was a pretty successful campaign for the Blue Devils. Grade: B-.