In addition to the lack of a true point guard to facilitate the offense and an inability to stop opposing guards off the dribble, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski identified another weakness of this year's Blue Devils.
Krzyzewski apparently doesn't see the same level of leadership he has witnessed in past years when Duke had seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith last season or Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas the one before that.
"The last two years, we haven't lost that many, but those teams were very mature," Krzyzewski said Monday on the David Glenn Show. "With Scheyer and Singler and Smith and Lance and Brian, we had older, very dependable guys. You knew what to expect. This year's team is a team that doesn't have those guys.
"One of the best ways of communication is if someone on your team is communicating your message. That's what Singler did on a daily basis through his effort or Nolan Smith through his effort and talk. Or Scheyer, Lance and Brian. They did that as big brothers. That's something we're missing on this team. Not being negative about our team, but we just do not have that. As a result, the message you're trying to get across may not be getting as deep as it needs to be."
What prompted Krzyzewski to go public with his dissatisfaction with the leadership on his team was a 78-74 overtime home loss to Miami on Sunday in which Duke displayed little effort or intensity for long stretches of the first half. The Blue Devils (19-4, 6-2) rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to force overtime but missed all six of their free throws in the extra period and fell at home for the second time this season.
Whereas past Duke teams boasted the talent and depth to survive a rare complacent patch, this year's Devils don't seem to have either to the same degree.
They're ninth in the ACC in points per possession defense. They've yet to settle on a consistent starting lineup or rotation. And they lack a point guard who can create for others off the dribble, enabling opposing teams to crowd the three-point arc and dare the Plumlee brothers to beat them inside.
Those flaws haven't prevented Duke from winning 19 games and contending for an ACC championship, but they do make the Blue Devils' margin for error slimmer.
"We're two possessions away from being undefeated in the conference, but we're also two other possessions away from maybe being 4-4," Krzyzewski said. "We drive on a more narrow road to win or lose than the Duke team's of the past three years. We've known that from the beginning. It's our goal to try to widen the road. You do that by getting maturity, execution and always playing hard. Yesterday, I didn't think we played hard for parts of that game."
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