Grayson Allen Duke

College Hoops on Sling: Is Duke Down and Out?

When you come into the season as the consensus #1, you’re not supposed to lose 3 of 6 and plummet to #17 in the rankings. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happened to Coach K’s Duke Blue Devils, who lost on New Year’s Eve to Virginia Tech 89-75, beat up on G-Tech and BC, and then lost back-to-back games to then #9 Florida State and then #14 Louisville.

One of the reasons expectations were so high for Duke was that it was believed they had one of the best incoming freshmen classes in the land, but blue chippers and Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum both missed several games at the start of the season with injuries. Tatum has been contributing 16.5 ppg and 6.3 rpg in 11 games so far, but Giles has been a disappointment, averaging 5.1 and 4.8 in limited minutes. There was a school of thought at the outset of the season that the absence of Tatum and Giles would benefit the development of sophomore Luke Kennard, and sure enough, Kennard has blossomed into the team’s leading scorer at 19.7 ppg, to go along with 5.5 rpg. But Grayson Allen, a guy who would be a leader on a team full of young talent,

They can somewhat excuse the loss to Virginia Tech, which came without Grayson Allen, whom Coach K finally sat after the junior guard’s third tripping incident of the season. Krzyzewski originally said Grayson’s suspension was indefinite, but that’s just coach speak for “3 games or until we lose, whichever comes first.” Allen did and said all the right things in expressing remorse, but at some point you just need to stop kicking out your leg and play some clean ball, man.

Just a few days later, Krzyzewski announced that he would be taking time off for back surgery, missing as many as four weeks. The last time Krzyzewski stepped away from the team with back issues was in 1995, which, coincidentally, was the last time Duke missed the NCAA tournament. Krzyzewski had handed over a 9-3 team to Pete Gaudet, who proceeded to go 4-15 the rest of the way. Stepping in for Coach K this time is Jeff Capel, who’s had success as a head coach at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma, compiling a .614 winning percentage.

But then Dukies were without fifth-year big man Amile Jefferson for the Louisville and FSU games, costing them the rebounding advantage and a big defensive paint presence, and now Capel 2-2 at Duke. Jefferson’s foot has healed well enough for him to have pulled down a dozen rebounds in the Blue Devils’ 70-58 win over Miami on Saturday.

On a side note: Duke has terrible home-road splits this season, going 10-0 at Cameron, 4-1 at neutral locations, and 1-3 on the road.

All the pieces are there: a veteran core, talented underclassmen, a world-class coach… But at every turn the Blue Devils seem hit a bump in the road, be it injuries, immaturity, a bad bit of scheduling luck. Krzyzewski hopes to be back in time for the February 9 game against North Carolina, in the meantime, Duke plays NC State, Wake Forest #14 Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh – four teams they should beat, even without Coach K, because when they’re healthy and on the floor, they can play with just about anyone. Duke has played just 8 games with all Kennard, Allen, Jefferson and Tatum on the floor, and they’ve won all of them – against admittedly weak competition – by an average of 85-61. They should be just fine.

You can watch the Duke Blue Devils and a host of other nationally ranked on teams this week on Sling.


Monday, January 23

NC State (13-7) vs #17 Duke (15-4)
7pm ET on ESPN

Tuesday, January 24

Auburn (13-6) vs #23 South Carolina (15-4)
6:30pm ET on SEC Network

#2 Kansas (18-1) vs #18 West Virginia (15-4)
7pm ET on ESPN2

#20 Purdue (16-4) vs Michigan State (12-8)
7pm ET on ESPN

#13 Louisville (16-4) vs Pittsburgh (12-7)
7pm ET on ESPNU

#1 Villanova (19-1) vs Marquette (13-6)
8pm ET on FS1

#4 Kentucky (17-2) vs Tennessee (10-9)
9pm ET on ESPN

Wednesday, January 25

Texas Tech (14-5) vs #5 Baylor (18-1) 7pm ET on ESPNews

#11 Butler (17-3) vs Seton Hall (13-6)
8:30pm ET on FS1

#25 Florida (14-5) vs LSU (9-9)
9pm ET on SEC Network

#8 UCLA (19-2) vs USC (17-4)
11pm ET on FS1

Thursday, January 26

#24 Xavier (14-5) vs #19 Cincinnati (17-2)
7pm ET on ESPN2

Virginia Tech (15-4) vs #9 North Carolina (18-3)
8pm ET on ESPN

San Diego (10-10) vs #3 Gonzaga (19-0)
9pm ET on ESPN3

Washington State (10-9) vs #7 Arizona (18-2)
9:30pm ET on Pac-12 Network

#10 Oregon (18-2) vs Utah (14-5)
10:30pm ET on FS1

Saturday, January 28

Texas A&M (10-8) vs #18 West Virginia (15-4)
Noon ET on ESPN

#14 Notre Dame (17-3) vs Georgia Tech (11-8)
Noon ET on ESPNU

#6 Florida State (18-2) vs Syracuse (11-9)
Noon ET on ESPN2

#25 Florida (14-5) vs Oklahoma (8-10)
2pm ET on ESPN

DePaul (8-12) vs #16 Creighton (18-2)
2:30pm ET on FS1

#5 Baylor (18-1) vs Ole Miss (12-7)
6pm ET on ESPN2

#2 Kansas (18-1) vs #4 Kentucky (17-2)
6:15pm ET on ESPN

#23 South Carolina (15-4) vs Missouri (5-13)
8:30pm ET on SEC Network

#10 Oregon (18-2) vs Colorado (10-10)
9:30pm ET on Pac-12 Network

#3 Gonzaga (19-0) vs Pepperdine (5-15)
10pm ET on ESPN2

Sunday 29

#12 Virginia (15-3) vs #1 Villanova (19-1)
1pm ET on FOX

Washington (9-10) vs #7 Arizona (18-2)
3:30pm ET on FOX

#24 Xavier (14-5) vs St John’s (9-12)
6pm ET on FS1