Devils, Krzyzewski suddenly have 'boom' potential
Posted October 16, 2013
Along with the obvious – Louisville’s Kevin Ware’s broken leg – a lingering memory of Duke’s final basketball game last season was something Mike Krzyzewski said once the Cardinals’ 85-63 win was finalized.
Down by only three points at halftime (35-32), Krzyzewski was optimistic going to the locker room even though he knew Rick Pitino’s guys would be tougher – not softer – without Ware.
"I thought we had a chance … then, boom!" coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "That's what they do to teams. They 'boom' you."
Louisville, which enters ACC play in 2014-15, progressed from that Midwest Regional title game to win the NCAA title.
Duke went home to say good-bye to Mason Plumlee (17.1 ppg, 10 rpg), Seth Curry (17.5 ppg) and Ryan Kelly (12.9 ppg), but as Krzyzewski went about his program retooling process, his words “They boom you” stuck in my mind.
The Blue Devils were a heck of a team last season. They won 30 games, split with Louisville, beat Ohio State, Kentucky, Miami and UNC twice.
In that respect, it was business as usual. The Devils have won at least 30 games in four of the past five seasons and went 27-7 in 2011-12 and 28-6 in ’07-’08. They won the national championship in ’09-’10 by going 10-1 during the months of March and April.
But on balance, Duke hasn’t been a big “boom you” team for several years. They’ve won big with great coaching, programming, focus, direction, defense, team-work and at times with nothing more complex than dogged mental toughness.
“All year, I think we probably had more determination than just great, great talent,” guard Jon Scheyer said after the two-point win over Butler for that ’09-’10 national title.
A DIFFERENT DUKE WAY?
Those words by Scheyer more or less define what has been the Duke way.
Other than Grant Hill, even those overwhelming teams in the early ‘90s weren’t stocked with incubating NBA superstars.
In later years, Luol Deng was so raw in his one season that he didn’t have the explosiveness to slam opposing defenses. Kryie Irving would have been a boom boomer of the first degree but was so banged up that he only played 11 games in his one season.
This team, while maybe too short on experience, has the markings of an athletic power plant.
With transfer Rodney Hood (6-8, 215), freshman Jabari Parker (6-8, 235), seasoned playmaker Quinn Cook (6-2, 180) and potentially Krzyzewski’s deepest and most versatile bench in years, Duke could be the sort of boom team that Louisville was last season and Kentucky was en route to the 2012 NCAA title.
The ultimate boom teams were UNC’s title winners in 2009 and Florida’s back-to-back winners in ’06 and ’07.
The Blue Devils probably don’t have that sort of firepower – and certainly a lot postseason exposure to pressure – but Duke and ACC fans are in store for what may be Krzyzewski’s most interesting team since he first began rising to national prominence in the mid 1980s.
A good deal of that interest will result from the fact that there’s no obvious low-post score on the roster to do what Plumlee did for the past two seasons. Red-shirt sophomore Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 260) could be moving in that direction.
Carolina in ’09 had Tyler Hansbrough, one of the best college centers in history. Those Florida teams had 6-11 Joakim Noah, 6-10 Corey Brewer and 6-10 Al Hortford. Kentucky in 2012 had 6-10 Anthony Davis and 6-9 Terrence Jones.
Duke doesn’t have that sort of size and perhaps inside punch. But this Blue Devil team could be team a lot like the one that ended their season in March.
The odds are against Duke winning another NCAA title, but the odds are certain that this will be a memorable team.