Duke entered this week as the No. 16 team in the country, the first time in more than six full seasons that the Blue Devils found themselves sitting outside of the top ten of the AP poll.
That ranking isn’t incorrect, either.
Duke is 1-2 in the ACC for the first time since 2007 after losing to Clemson in Littlejohn Coliseum, 72-59, on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Devils are 12-4 for the first time since 1996. The last time Clemson beat Duke? February of 2009.
We’re bordering on unchartered territory for the Blue Devils here, and not because this is the first time that Duke has struggled under Mike Krzyzewski. They’ve slumped and they’ve lost a couple games in a row and they’ve been picked off in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. (Hello, Eric Maynor.) That happens with every team from time-to-time, I don’t care who your coach is.
But this year is different.
Duke’s issues have been evident since the start of the season. Remember, this is the same team that nearly lost to East Carolina and Vermont at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the same team that began the year outside of Kenpom’s top 150 in defensive efficiency. We know that Duke is going to have trouble defending on the perimeter, and we know those defensive issues are going to be exacerbated by the fact that there is no one around the rim to act as rim protector.
We know all that.
But it doesn’t change the fact that the Blue Devils were a mess offensively against the Tigers, who admittedly are a good defensive team but not one that should make this Duke team look that bad.
What do I mean by ‘this Duke team’?
Well, one that includes the potential No. 1 pick in Jabari Parker and a pair of potential lottery picks in Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon. One that also includes an underrated (because he’s inconsistent) point guard in Quinn Cook and a pair of sharpshooting off-guards in Matt Jones and Andre Dawkins.
Coach K has more than enough offensive weapons at his disposal and more talent on his roster than everyone in the country outside of maybe 10 teams, and that’s being generous. So why are they being outscored 41-22 in the second half by a Tiger team that’s bad enough that it could end up getting the coach fired? Why is this group getting outscored 26-9 to close out a league game?
The answer: I don’t know.
And it doesn’t look like Coach K does, either. At least not right now.
Because if he did, Duke wouldn’t be losing at Notre Dame and they wouldn’t be losing at Clemson.
The Blue Devils are underachieving right now. When was the last time you could say that about one of Coach K’s teams?