(Note: I wrote the vast majority of this column before the Maryland game. I argue down below that the offense is better when we don’t throw it down low to Mason Plumlee. After he turned into a stud-muffin last night and literally won the game with his superior post play, I was forced to reevaluate everything that I wrote. However, I think it still holds up for the most part. The guards do stand around and the offense grinds to a halt when they feed him down low, and maybe that had something to do with everyone else’s poor play. Still, a win is a win, and that win was because of the offense running through Mason Plumlee.)
Duke’s first five games in the ACC have taken fans on an emotional roller coaster ride like no season that I can remember. Georgia Tech upset us because we couldn’t put away a vastly inferior opponent and make a statement after the painful loss to Temple. Virginia gave us some of our confidence back because we knew how tough they would be and watched our guys fight hard and come out victorious. Clemson brought us back to the same feelings we had about the Yellow Jackets as Duke built a lead and failed to execute down the stretch against a vulnerable team. The Wake Forest game brought back memories of teams of old as streaky 3-point shooting and a roaring crowd led Duke to crush the Demon Deacons. And then Florida State brought us crashing back down to earth as they used their always tough defense and found some hot scoring to end the home winning streak and once again make us question the viability of this Duke team as a contender. There is an unfortunate pattern emerging as this season matures. EVERYONE seems to be shooting over 50% against Duke. Because of this, there are a host of teams that are going to have a shot at beating the Blue Devils with a simple formula: play good enough perimeter defense so that Duke guards don’t score their way to an insurmountable lead, and provided that you have a few players who can score when given the opportunity, you will have a shot to win at the end.