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Adam Gold

A bad night or bad sign for Duke?

Posted March 15, 2013

— Do we still have to pay our taxes?

No, I wasn't asking you Mr. Lowe, I was just wondering since one of the all-time sure things, Duke winning the ACC Tournament, isn't going to happen this year. I was just hoping that….aw forget it.

Friday night at the Greensboro Coliseum, the Duke Blue Devils looked into the future and saw the way their season will come to an end. Sure, the Devils were woeful from behind the 3-point line, connecting on just 4-of-25 attempts – a performance even worse than when they visited Miami in January. But if you think Duke was sent packing by Maryland because the threes weren't falling, then you don't know Duke.

Duke's major problem tonight, and in fact their biggest issue heading into final exam month, was their defense. Maryland sophomore forward (and Raleigh native) Dez Wells carved up the Devils to the tune of 30 points on just 13 attempts. Wells drove the ball to the rim, pulled up for mid-range shots and knocked down his only two 3-pointers.

In short, he did whatever he pleased and the Blue Devils were simply loitering. Wells wasn't alone either. The Terrapins, a team that is still trying to play its way onto the proverbial bubble, was simply the more attacking team throughout the line up.

But why was that the case?

Duke has – or had – a lot riding on tonight's game. There's no question that the loss to a team that is still a long shot to see their name on Selection Sunday will jeopardize the Devils' hold on a No. 1 seed. That's not to say that it's lost, just that it's less likely today than it would have been with a win over the Terps. And the time last I checked, winning the ACC Tournament is always a very big deal to this program.

More importantly, however, is that Duke is still trying to figure out who they are since the return of Ryan Kelly four games ago. Because of that, every opportunity to face the pressure of competition without the most dire consequences was going to be beneficial when the NCAA Tournament begins for them either Thursday or Friday.

In all the years I've actively covered Duke basketball, I can unequivocally say that this is the most confusing Blue Devils team to figure out. They have so many weapons offensively and all of the defensive measurements say that, especially since Kelly's return, Duke is one of the best in the country in protecting their own basket.  Friday evening said otherwise, however.

Maybe it was just a bad night – their second in the last five games – against a desperate team. Maybe Maryland is better than they've shown all year long. Maybe, much like NC State a year ago, they're a team that has always been on the verge of doing something significant and Duke just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the Blue Devils are going to face better teams than the Terps next weekend and an effort like tonight – which rang eerily similar to that against Virginia two weeks ago – is going to spell a much earlier close to the college careers of Kelly, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry than they would have hoped.

For those that think Duke is still the "live by the three, die by the three" team they've always been, the numbers say otherwise. You're going to lose games when you only make 16 percent from 3-point range, for sure, but the Blue Devils shoot fewer threes now than they have over the last several seasons.

Offensively, this team is much more diverse than in the past. They can get offense from Plumlee inside and they have shown the ability to get in the lane and create baskets with Curry, Quin Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon.

Duke shoots 41 oercent from beyond the arc as a team – 4th best in the country – but they've shown they can win without the 3-ball, hitting a combined 13 in victories over VCU, Louisville and Ohio State. But the Blue Devils aren't going to win when they allow teams to spread them out, break them apart and convert with the ease that Maryland displayed on Friday.

No, if Duke's season ends just a few games from now, it's going to be the defense, not the jump shot, that sends them home.

30 Comments

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  • 903 mens national championships Mar 16, 6:24 p.m.

    How can Duke be tired? They havent played in almost a week, and Maryland played the night... View More

    — Posted by Toddler10-21

    Duke wasn't tired. They just got beat by a team that has favorable matchups against them. Kelly has alot of good basketball ahead of him over the next month.

  • Toddler10-21 Mar 16, 6:17 p.m.

    How can Duke be tired? They havent played in almost a week, and Maryland played the night before? Kelly is always slow especially when he has to TRY and guard a athletic player. He is not a shot blocker. He just stands there and flop! Live by the three, die by the three. If his six elevin a## needs some kind of post game. SOFT A@@!!

  • Constitutional-Defender Mar 16, 2:07 p.m.

    I agree.^ No one made this racist until TJPC posted.
    Street ball = physicality and... View More

    — Posted by slayerhil

    YEP!

  • Sauras69 Mar 16, 1:08 p.m.

    Duke looked a little tired to me, and Kelly was a step slow when they drove it to him. Missing all of those 3's took them out of this one. Duke will regroup.

  • arfamr1007 Mar 16, 12:37 p.m.

    College ball Vs. Street ball.

    — Posted by bubbba

    Racist much? And why don't you look at the bios from the MD players - not really from the... View More

    — Posted by TJPC

    This was not a racist comment. Its the truth. Puke looked like a bunch of sweater wearing... View More

    — Posted by Constitutional-Defender

    leave it to some Obamabot to pull the race card...what a loser

  • slayerhil Mar 16, 12:21 p.m.

    I agree.^ No one made this racist until TJPC posted.
    Street ball = physicality and aggressiveness. Native N. Carolinians all extend their middle fingers in your direction. Don't let the door hit you on the way back to your own state.

  • Constitutional-Defender Mar 16, 10:46 a.m.

    Hey Adam Mold, the answer to your stupid question is BOTH.

    Puke just is not as good as the media wants and portrays them to be. Just the cold plain truth. No matter how much rear kissing Vitale does. They are average at best.

  • Aint ur day Mar 16, 10:24 a.m.

    Dook was looking past Maryland, its obvious they just planned on showing up and it would be good enough. They stunk up the joint but hey...no complaints here.
    Maryland on the other hand played like it is the 4th quarter with 2 mins to go the whole game. They did everything they needed to do and even when Dook made it a close game Maryland put the pressure on, made shots and kept playing their own game.

    bigfella is correct...that 3 ball can be a bad deal and eskimos in alaska weren't as cold as Dook was last night. The inside game for Dook isn't that great, we saw that play after play. Hats off to the Terps, they were absolutely masterful with ball movement and shot selection throughout the game.
    No one could have made me believe that Dook would go 4-25 on 3's and that the Terps would lead the entire game. I'm sorry but that was the best played game of the entire season IMO. I know I will get slammed for saying that but I watched a mediocre Terps team that has struggled rise up and slap Dook around and show the ACC that no matter thier future...its all about the here and now.

  • TJPC Mar 16, 10:17 a.m.

    College ball Vs. Street ball.

    — Posted by bubbba

    Racist much? And why don't you look at the bios from the MD players - not really from the streets. Boy, you can tell you are from NC - racist...

  • BattlingBishop 5 Mar 16, 9:56 a.m.

    Getting dumped in their first ACCT game is a bad sign.

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