College basketball’s biggest villain returned to action on Wednesday night.
Duke junior guard Grayson Allen started for the No. 8 Blue Devils as they returned to national-title-contender form with a convincing 110-57 ACC home win over Georgia Tech.
Allen finished with 15 points and seven assists as he returned from an indefinite suspension in which he sat out one game. The junior was on the sidelines during a Duke loss over the weekend at Virginia Tech and and didn’t play in a game for two weeks.
There are going to be opinions all over the internet about why Allen was allowed back into Duke’s lineup after only missing one game — especially since he committed his third tripping incident in two years in the win over Elon and subsequently had a meltdown on the Blue Devil bench.
Was he allowed back because Duke lost to Virginia Tech? Did Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski want to get Allen back in the rotation prior to his month away from the sidelines while he recovers from surgery and Jeff Capel takes over as interim coach?
It might be impossible to really know why Allen was allowed back without those parties answering but after two weeks away from game action it was probably time for Allen to return. No matter how much people love to complain about his dirty plays he had to return to the team eventually.
Now that we’ve entered conference play, I’m tired of spending so much time talking about a dirty play when there have been plenty of other great players with bad tempers. I don’t blame Coach K for bringing Allen back if he feels that he is mature enough to return to the floor. If people want more of a hardline stance against Allen’s actions, they can take that up with the ACC since they don’t have a rule calling for suspensions after such incidents.
Location also could be a factor in the decision to have Allen come back. The return for Allen comes at home the next two games as it allows Allen to get comfortable playing again with the fully healthy Duke rotation while sheltering him from opposing crowds for a little bit longer.
Home games against Georgia Tech and Boston College are a nice way for Allen to get back in rhythm before going to Florida State and Louisville to play back-to-back road games. Asking Allen to make a potential return on the road could have been a lot to ask since you know he is going to hear it from fans — as he justifiably should.
The time away from game action also appears to have helped Allen heal from a nagging toe injury that hampered him at the start of the season. A quicker and bouncier Allen got off to a fast start with 13 points and five assists in the first half as the Blue Devils jumped out to a 31-point halftime lead.
With Allen looking healthy and in control the Blue Devils’ offense hit another level that we’ve only seen from Kentucky and UCLA — teams full of blue-chip players moving the ball and hitting shots and doing whatever they want on offense.
Don’t mistake Georgia Tech for any kind of NCAA Tournament team, but the Yellow Jackets did beat North Carolina soundly and Duke made them look like a Division III team in the first half with Allen back in the starting lineup.
Duke doesn’t have to be in crisis mode after the Virginia Tech loss, as the defense was much improved and Allen’s return energized a balanced offensive effort in which he acted more as a facilitator than a scorer. Allen only needed five field goal attempts to reach 15 points as he was 7-for-7 from the free-throw line and gave easy looks to teammates.
But we do have to see how Duke responds to heading on the road to Florida State and Louisville next week. Those two ACC teams are NCAA tournament-caliber opponents and the Blue Devils will have the unique distractions of Coach K’s absence as well as Allen’s first road games on the floor since the return from his suspension.
The national title picture doesn’t have a clear No. 1 team at the moment but we might get a better sense of where Duke is in that discussion if they can handle that road stretch well.