For a preseason No. 1 team, Duke has underperformed. The Blue Devils (20-5) are ranked 12th in this week’s poll and have lost three of five overall by a combined 10 points. In fact, four of Duke’s five losses have come by five points or fewer.
What’s going on with the Blue Devils?
“I don’t think Coach K is doing a good job this year,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Wally Szczerbiak said on Tiki and Tierney. “Flat out, I really don’t. He’s got two big men that are clogging up the lanes, so Grayson Allen has become just a jump-shooter. I’ve heard through the grapevine that all he wants is Grayson Allen to stand out there and shoot threes and space the floor and be a jump-shooter. That’s not easy to do. He puts the ball on the floor very well. He gets himself to the free-throw line.”
Case in point: Allen was 10-of-10 from the line in Duke’s 80-69 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday. Leading scorer Marvin Bagley III didn’t play.
“Coach K has to figure out a way to get him in a rhythm,” Szczerbiak said of Allen. “He’s their senior. He’s also got to step up as far as leadership in the locker room. It looks like there’s a big leadership void. It looks like that locker room is kind of being run by the young guys, and as a result, they kind of aren’t playing defense. They kind of melt down at the end of games. Coach K has to get this team better on the defensive end of the floor. That’s what John Calipari does. His teams improve. When he gets these freshmen, their first game, they look like a deer in headlights out there playing defense. By the NCAA Tournament, they know how to guard pick-and-rolls. They’re communicating on the defensive end of the floor.
“It just doesn’t seem like Coach K can get through to these guys on how to defend,” Szczerbiak continued. “And that’s alarming because that’s why these kids want to go to a school like a Duke, like a Kentucky, to get ready for the NBA so they seamlessly move into the NBA. That team just can’t guard anyone right now, and as a result, I don’t know how far they’re going to go in March.”
Then again, there really isn’t a dominant team in college basketball this year. As bad as the Blue Devils have looked in recent weeks, they could certainly find themselves in San Antonio on March 31.
“It’s going to be a crazy NCAA Tournament,” Szczerbiak said. “I really like when you don’t know what the heck is going to happen in the NCAA Tournament, and that’s what it’s going to be this year. Any team can pop up. There are going to be 15 or 20 teams that can legitimately make the Final Four and I think win a national championship depending on the match-ups because there are no real dominant star players this year. The dominant star players are all freshmen – and freshman are so inexperienced. Who knows what’s going to happen?”