Last Wednesday, all of America got an early Christmas present. Mark Few and his Gonzaga Bulldogs handed Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils their first loss of the season and first ever loss in Maui, 89-87. Well, I should’ve left out that Coach K part. Mike Krzyzewski did not do anything except pick the starting line-up. If I were a Duke fan, I wouldn’t worry about this loss. I am sure the tournament selection committee is already hard at work on an excuse why to not count this loss against them.
Duke may have the best recruiting class of all time this season. Securing the top 3 recruits, no other team, including Kentucky, have a better group of freshman. Their top 3, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish, have dominated. Barrett and Zion are averaging over 20 PPG and they have already beaten 2 top 10 teams. Pretty impressive, but since that 30+ point blowout versus Kentucky, every game has gotten sloppier. Coach K is getting complacent and it showed Wednesday night. He horribly mismanaged this game.
I wondered what would happen if they didn’t make their first 30 shots. How would they respond if the other team didn’t instantly concede defeat? I got my answer against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs punched Duke in the mouth from the beginning. These freshman had no idea what to do. For 25 straight minutes, Duke played down by at least 8 points. They were like lost little puppy dogs out there, but Coach K did nothing. He called a timeout or two if it was getting too bad, but nothing really changed. Yes, Duke ended up coming back in a scary way. Wasn’t K though. That was Barrett, Jones and Williamson taking over.
Now flash forward to the last 3 Duke possessions. Down by 2 points. R.J. Barrett has the ball and drives down the lane only to be blocked. Fine. I’m okay with this since he is their best player and the one you trust to get the job done. Gonzaga misses two free throws and Duke has the ball back. Barrett drives again in an isolation and is blocked again. Gonzaga misses two more free throws. A timeout is called. I cannot remember who called it, but Coach K definitely had enough time to set up a play for one of his amazing players and he just didn’t do it. You’re telling me that this supposed “best college basketball coach ever” didn’t have a single play in his 40 years of experience to get Reddish open for a game winning three? He couldn’t get Zion a mismatch in the post? He couldn’t even give Barrett a simple screen? No. Barrett got an iso for the third time in a row and got blocked yet again as time expired.
Mike Krzyzewski thought he had an easy 40-0 season already wrapped up. Take a lesson from Cal. No matter how good they are on paper, they’re still college kids. And being a college kid myself, I can attest to all of us being at least a little stupid. Coach K needs to actually coach these guys. He hasn’t yet and he failed. I can’t wait to see what kind of injury or illness ole Mike tries to use to get himself out of this one.