The Duke Blue Devils entered the season ranked No. 1 in the country. They are now 14-4 and ninth in the ACC standings.
It doesn’t make sense.
“Duke came into the season a near unanimous No. 1 team in the country, a team that a lot of people really thought could be historically good,” FoxSports.com’s college basketball writer Aaron Torres said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “You add four McDonald’s All-Americans out of the best class of kids across the board arguably in the last 15, 20, 25 years since they started doing these scouting services. You add those four guys to a core of Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, and people really thought this was a team that could, if everything broke right, go undefeated. If not, I think everybody agreed that they were going to finish with one, two, three losses heading into the NCAA Tournament. But we’re sitting here not even 20 games into the year, and Duke’s 14-4, 2-3 in the ACC, and it’s got big problems.”
Duke has lost three of its last five games – all on the road – to Virginia Tech, Florida State and Louisville.
“It’s not one thing with them,” Torres said of the Blue Devils. “They’ve been banged up all year, but they’re for the most part pretty healthy. Coach K’s out, but you look across the board: Louisville’s a really solid team, but at this point, Duke has shown us nothing to believe that of the top 15, 20, 25 teams in college basketball that they’re really equipped to beat very many of them at all. I think you could make the case that even though they’re probably still somewhere in the top 15, top 20, Duke is probably the most disappointing team all season long.”
Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum were supposed to be two of the best freshmen in years. Instead, Giles is averaging 5.6 points in seven games, while Tatum – despite averaging 16.8 points – is shooting just 42.3 percent from the field.
“Harry Giles is a tough case because he’s had, since his sophomore year of high school, three knee surgeries, two of them season-ending ACL surgeries,” Torres said. “He is still very much a work in progress. The guy I’m kind of disappointed in is Jayson Tatum. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a kid with the ability to score in as many ways as Jayson Tatum can. He’s a guy that NBA scouts have told me – and I believe it – has the offensive repertoire to lead the NBA in scoring. Now that would be seven, eight, nine years down the road when he hits his mid-to-late-20s, but he’s been the more surprising one to me.
“But I just think it kind of proves the point,” Torres continued. “We’re arguing who’s the most disappointing Duke freshman. I think it’s safe to say that just about all of them are. It has been a weird season for them, and at a certain point, we got to stop asking what’s wrong with Duke and just come to the conclusion that maybe they’re just not as good as we thought they were.”