This is the time of year when “teaching losses” and “teaching moments” are in full effect, when coaches dissect the videotape of an early-season slip-up as a coaching tool for their younger players.
Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t yet have that footage to show his Blue Devils. They just survived a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule unblemished. So after Duke’s thrilling, 73-68, comeback win over No. 4 Ohio State to even up the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, Coach K will have to use Wednesday night’s performance as a “teaching win” instead.
Despite getting little production from a hobbled Seth Curry, spending most of the game with Ryan Kelly in foul trouble and having to recover from a dismal first-half performance, the Blue Devils unpacked a new way to win a basketball game—a new method for knocking off a top-ranked opponent.
Duke shook off a sloppy first half plagued with careless passing, errant shooting and weak defensive rebounding, scoring 50 points in the second half to storm past upset-minded and battle-tested Ohio State. In so doing, the Blue Devils notched their third win this month over a top-five opponent—three teams that reached last year’s Final Four, no less—and their fourth win over a Top 25 team. In all, Duke now owns five wins over top-20 teams as measured by Ken Pomeroy’s tempo-free ratings system.
What more can the nation’s quasi No. 1 team possibly prove in a span of three weeks?
These Blue Devils have won every which way. They’ve won a seesaw game that came down to the wire (Louisville), secured a win by front-running (Minnesota) and by pulling away late (VCU). With the Commissioner’s Cup hanging in the balance, Duke even figured out how to win by playing from behind against a stalwart defensive team. That’s college basketball’s paradigm for survival of the fittest.