Duke was coming on as Coach K was going out.
The 110-57 thrashing of Georgia Tech Wednesday night was filled with messages for the ACC and college basketball. Duke is a lot better team than the last time Mike Krzyzewski took a leave with a bad back 22 years ago. You could tell by the starting lineup and the dominating performance over a team that pretty much routed UNC on Saturday.
The Blue Devils started freshman Harry Giles for the first time and played 6-10 Marques Bolden for 15 minutes in a show of power that must have soothed Coach K’s aching back. Duke also reinstated Grayson Allen as his indefinite suspension turned out to equal one game, a clear message to the ACC that if the day and night tripper was going to sit for more games the league should have done it. All is forgiven, apparently, until Allen’s next leg whip.
Clobbering Tech by 53 points after the Yellow Jackets beat Carolina was also a message that, no matter who is coaching, the Blue Devils still have the best pure talent in the ACC, if not the country. And with former head coach Jeff Capel taking the reins, the chances of a 14-loss meltdown like in 1995 are slim and none. Duke will be ready for K’s return, likely for UNC in Cameron on February 9.
Sure, playing at home is a lot different than playing at Georgia Tech, but the comparative results clearly show the Tar Heels must get a lot better if they hope to beat the Dukies at least once this season. Allen had 15 points and seven assists, and the heavily wrapped knees of Giles still produced a 12 and 10 double-double in only 17 minutes. If the Winston-Salem phenom is truly over his injury problems, he joins Jason Tatum, Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson and Allen in a potent lineup that still has freshmen Bolden and Frank Jackson and senior Matt Jones coming off the bench.
Duke still has to prove it has the interior size to score and defend against bigger opponents, and the blowout of Tech begged the question of how Carolina could have lost to THAT team. Duke happily raised that point as its Hall of Fame leader takes a month off.