Duke's Not Going Anywhere

The Blue Devils' struggles will produce a team that no high seed will want to see in their bracket says TDD's Jeff Goodman.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – Luckily for the Duke Blue Devils, the name Pete Gaudet never came up.

If it did, that would have meant that Mike Krzyzewski and the Dookies would have dropped their fifth straight and we all know the last time that happened – back in 1994-95 when Coach K left the team due to exhaustion and the back injury.

That was when Pete Gaudet (who hails from nearby Needham, Mass.) took over and proceeded to lose five straight games (the Blue Devils had lost the last game before Krzyzewski left) and finish 13-18 overall and 2-14 in the ACC.

``Sometimes your situation puts fire in your eyes," said Gaudet, now a video coordinator with the Ohio State women's basketball team.

Duke had its backs against the wall. The Blue Devils were running out of chances. Use whichever cliché you want, because they all worked going into the Valentine's Day game at Boston College.

``We needed a win," Duke's point guard Greg Paulus said. "And to do that at this place when people were counting us out was huge. We've lost a lot of close games, but we didn't let it get us down."

The Blue Devils responded with a crucial "must-win" at the Conte Forum – which houses Boston College, the first-place team in the ACC.

``It felt good," said a smiling Jon Scheyer. ``We've said that some games have been must-wins before, but I think we all knew in our heads that this was really a must-win."

That puts Duke (19-7) back at the .500 mark in the league with four to go – Georgia Tech at home on Sunday and then on the road against Clemson, home against Maryland before finishing up at Chapel Hill against North Carolina.

Let's be honest. Coach K's team is one win shy of 20 and will get in the NCAA tournament even if they finish two games under .500 in conference play. That means one more victory and they are in. Take it to the bank.

``Hopefully, you win enough games to put yourself in a position to get to March," Krzyzewski said. "I think that's what we're doing."

It's a Duke team that fell out of the AP Poll for the first time since the Days of Gaudet. It's also one that just proved it could beat the league's hottest team, BC, in its own backyard.

Coach K and the Blue Devils found a way to stop the league's most productive player, Jared Dudley, for most of the game. He had just two points, was without a rebound and was rattled for the first 20 minutes. Duke defended and got easy baskets in transition. This comes a week after nearly knocking off North Carolina.

Are they the Duke that we are accustomed to in recent years? Absolutely not.

But will they be a dangerous first-round opponent come March. No question about it. If Paulus picks his spots and gives the team the leadership it's been sorely lacking, McRoberts continues to assert himself and Scheyer makes open shots, they can survive and advance.

Can they hang a fourth championship banner at Cameron? That's highly unlikely, but there's no reason to think they can't go as far as the team featuring J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams went a year ago when they lost to LSU in the Sweet 16.

That was a team with two of the best that ever came through Durham and they couldn't beat John Brady.

This club doesn't feature a true superstar – kind of like the year that Gaudet took the reigns and had to rely on Cherokee Parks. Josh McRoberts is a great No. 2 guy and while he has been more assertive on the offensive end in the past game and a half (the second half against Maryland), he's still not capable of taking over and dominating.

They have a young point guard in Paulus who has more focus and expectations placed on him in his sophomore campaign. Sounds eerily similar to Jeff Capel's situation in his second season in Durham.

Both clubs have lost close games. The one in 1994-95 lost a pair of double-overtime contests against UNC and Virginia – and also a buzzer-beater from Joe Smith's Maryland club.

This year's team has dropped overtime games to Virginia Tech and Virginia and also lost a one-point thriller against Florida State.

But Coach K isn't leaving this team – and they aren't going away, either.


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