Duke’s loss opens up two big questions for Devils

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Duke’s no longer perfect. Not after Wednesday’s 66-61 loss to Florida State.

The Devils’ first setback in 25 games raises the question on everyone’s mind: How did the Seminoles lose to Auburn?

Kidding. It’ll simply cement doubts about Duke’s interior play and further increase speculation to Kyrie Irving’s return.

Which is a problem for Mike Krzyzewski. He doesn’t have answers for either one right now.

 “I’ve said all along we’re not a great team since Kyrie’s injury. But we’ve got a chance to be a good team,” the Duke coach said afterward.

“That’s why playing tough conference games makes you better. We’re gonna get everyone’s best shot. We haven’t been in a game like that. We haven’t been in a game like that all year.”

Irving, the electric freshman point guard who hasn’t played since Dec. 4 because of a toe injury, isn’t expected back until late February at the earliest, but Coach K says that’s the best case scenario. He’s repeatedly said that he doubts Irving will play again this season.

The Devils could’ve used Irving’s quick first step, his reliable outside shot and his 17.4 points per game given that they only made 31.1 percent of their shots against the ‘Noles, a season low.

Then again, they would’ve needed more than just Irving. They needed an interior game.

Florida State’s perhaps the nation’s most intimidating defense, forceful in the paint and physical on the ball. Easy shots don’t exist. That’s one of the reasons why Duke launched 35 3-pointers. Nothing was coming inside.

The normally reliable Plumlee brothers weren’t much of a factor, combining for just three points and 15 rebounds. It’s times like that when Duke misses Brian Zoubek. By the time the Devils started hitting shots, they were down by double digits. That’s a massive lead for FSU.

“I don’t think they did anything tricky,” Krzyzewski said. “Their defense just dominated our offense for about 25 minutes.”

It’s hardly time to write off Duke, though. The Devils are 15-1, remain one of the nation’s most efficient teams on offense and defense and have two game-changers in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith (a combined 39 points on 12 of 33 shooting). And those give them an edge on just about every other team in the country.

But until those two questions get answered, they’re vulnerable.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.