Durham, North Carolina was probably a very sad place following the Duke loss to South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32 game. However, with such a lackluster finish to a season by Duke standards, there is still a lot that Duke fans took away from that loss. Yes, Duke lost as a higher seed to a South Carolina team that struggles offensively, but with that impeccable defense that SC has, forcing fifteen plus turnovers to a Duke team and igniting offensively in the second half which was a very uncharacteristic thing for that South Carolina team. However, the term bad losses could be used to describe an injury ridden season for Duke. Among those bad losses is the dreaded NC State game in which Duke lost 84-82. Also there are losses to Syracuse who had a down year, and the low scoring loss to Miami.
In the beginning of the year, Duke was the favorite to win the NCAA championship. Then injuries struck. Jayson Tatum got injured in one of the first practices for Duke which kept him sidelined for 8 games early on in the season. Harry Giles, the number 1 High School prospect in the nation did not play a game until half way through the year. Marques Bolden missed time with a leg injury as well as Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen. Grayson of course missed another game due to his tripping incidents. Even Coach K missed some time due to back surgery where Jeff Capel filled in going 3-4. The season was filled with ups and downs and unfortunately ended with a down.
Duke finished the season at 28-9 which is a great record for any team, except Duke. They finished 11-7 in conference which set them up for a four day ACC Tournament run as the 5 seed. They became the first team to play four games in four days and win the ACC Tournament. That is not the part that should stick out to you, the young guns with a 7 man rotation made two very impressive come from behind wins against Louisville and North Carolina, and then won the championship game against a hot Notre Dame team.
Without those bad losses, two wins against number one seed North Carolina and an ACC Championship win should have ensured a one seed to Duke, who however lost out on the one seed becoming the 2 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Duke had a good win against Troy in the Round of 64 game, which set them up for a game against South Carolina which became a true road game in which Duke does not play many of those outside the ACC anymore. Duke would lose this game in which they ran cold against a red hot defense.
Even with the somewhat shaky team finishing, Duke had some top ACC guys on that roster. One of which is Luke Kennard, who returned for his sophomore year and made massive strides as the face that runs the place in Durham. Some feel like Kennard was snubbed of the ACC Player of the year losing it to Jackson from UNC. Jayson Taytum was a solid ACC player and became a solid one-two punch with Kennard whenever Allen did not show up as his normal self. They both led this team and set them up for success, which just did not come in the end.
So for the Duke season, it could be a success in some books, but in most it is a failure. 28-9 is no joke, and ACC champs is no joke, but falling short of even reaching a Final Four as a favorite is a joke to many. Personally I feel like it is a mediocre season with good things and bad things.
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