Mike Krzyzewski talked about college basketball in his post-game press conference after last night’s loss to Syracuse, their third in a row, with the last two coming at home to unranked opponents. “It can be tremendous, and it can be cruel,” he commented. “Right now we’re in the cruel part.”
Well, about that …
@TheBenSwain k doesn’t know cruel. Go down to Raleigh…
— James Auman (@jrauman) January 19, 2016
There are two indisputable facts about Duke basketball right now:
- Duke won the National Championship last year
- Duke isn’t close to being at that level this year
Without the first, the second would be really difficult for Duke to deal with.
A year ago, Duke essentially played six players (defined as having averaged more than 20 minutes per game), and only one of those guys, Matt Jones, is on the court right now for the Blue Devils. Even when (if) Amile Jefferson returns from injury, Coach K will be trotting out one NBA lottery pick in Ingram, and six other guys who have work to do to find a spot at the next level. It’s not a great situation for Duke at all, but man, it could be so much worse.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Duke’s season ended a year ago without a championship. It’s not that hard, because you can basically look at Kentucky and get the picture of what it would be like in Durham, well … if you can you imagine actual media bravery to call out Calipari for tremendously underperforming on the court as compared to his success on the recruiting circuit. There would be no insulation from that 5th banner hanging in Cameron, and there would be muted excitement about next year’s recruiting class because it would be “proven” that one-and-done doesn’t work at Duke.
Instead, Duke did win last year. And Duke will be frighteningly good next year, perhaps even better than last year. Because of the absence of those sweeping hot takes about the state of Duke’s program, or whether or not the game has passed K by, it probably feels pretty bad around the Duke program right now because all of the attention is on a team of players who just aren’t quite ready.
But “cruel”? Ask State about cruel times. Wake Forest? Oh heavens yes. Even UNC if Roy Williams can’t win a title with this roster. For everyone else, this “cruel” time for Duke feels like a whole gang of first world problems.
But you have to respect the fight, at least. Calipari was dropping “wait until next year” bombs mid-season in 2013.