I've said it countless times this year that this Duke team isn't a classic Duke team and that its NCAA Tournament lifespan probably isn't very long. They don't defend well-- They gave up the highest field goal shooting percentage of any ACC team in the league. When has that ever happened under Mike Krzyzewski?
They aren't particularly consistent-- Too many good performances followed by poor ones this season and far too many times this season the Blue Devils have dug themselves a hole in a game only to have to try and dig themselves.
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You also have players that disappear for stretches of a game or for an entire game or games.
And with no real guy you can single out as a team leader, I just don't see this team going very far, especially with the difficulty of their region.
This team definitely has its weaknesses but it has strengths too. Austin Rivers for his faults is a very good player with the potential to be great at times. Seth Curry, when hot can be lethal. The Plumlee brothers when on can be beasts on the board and offensive weapons in their own right.
With the right matchup and when healthy, Ryan Kelly, becomes one of the most versatile players in the country.
And with a coach like Krzyzewski it is hard to pick against them. Listening to him talk he seems like his teams chances. It is good to hear but part of me wonders if that is more coach speak to boost the confidence of his team.
Some coaches will do that to boost the confidence of the fan base as well, but I'm not sure that Krzyzewski particularly cares what I or any other fans or media think about his team's chances and I don't blame him. His focus is clearly on making his team better and that has to give you confidence.
Still as a fan it is very hard to not look ahead at the bracket and see how the matchups clearly don't favor the Blue Devils. Too many athletic teams like Baylor that could trip up Duke and of course the elephant in the room, Kentucky.
I'm still a bit perplexed as to how Duke got so fortunate as to draw the top No. 1 seed, but there is nothing I, nor the team can do about it.
Krzyzewski seems to be keeping his team focused on one opponent at a time and for Duke that is Lehigh. Beyond that it would be extremely detrimental to the team to focus on anyone else.
That dream matchup between Duke and Kentucky is going to just have to wait because when something is that desired it more times than not never happens.
Duke has proven it can play with and beat some of the top teams. They've played two No. 1 seeds and have a combined 2-1 record against them. They've played two No. 2 seeds and and are 1-1 in those matchups. They are 1-3 against No. 3 seeds, all three games were against Florida State.
They've played one No. 4 seed and won, and one No. 5 seed and lost. Like much of the season, it has been a mixed bag.
They aren't a dominant team, just one of several good teams that if they get healthy and hot could make a run, but you never know.
The odds are still stacked against them though. It is an uphill battle where you are not only facing your doubters, and there are many, you are facing the expectations of being a player for Duke.
That exception, fair or not often includes a deep tournament run if not a Final Four and a shot at a National Championship.
It is a proud program with a rich history and a coach who continues to build a legacy that will stand the test of time.
We as fans, myself included, often get wrapped up in the hype of the tournament and allow our ability to look ahead force us into topics such as the potential pitfalls that lie ahead. We also have become spoiled over past successes and often expect the same level of success every year.
The team and coaches do not have that luxury and this year even more so because the room for error is so small.
Do I believe Duke will go a long way in the tournament? Not really. But I still believe in Duke, its players and especially its coaches and despite the great odds I'll be tuned in watching and pulling for the team. And like the rest of the 64 (err 68) teams in the tournament, I will have the hope that a championship is just one more game away.
It is survive and advance time and all Duke fans are hoping that the Blue Devils have enough survival skills to live to play another day.
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