WASHINGTON, D.C. — Duke and NC State played a wildly entertaining game on Wednesday in the ACC tournament — not a phrase you would have ever expected to hear a decade ago — with the Blue Devils holding on for a 92-89 win to advance to the quarterfinals and another meeting with Mike Brey and Notre Dame.
It was the most points scored in a regulation game in the ACC tournament since 1990 and was kick-started by the highest-scoring first half since David Thompson and NC State outlasted Maryland in the 1974 title game. For Duke, a team that’s carrying a six-to-seven man rotation at the moment, that doesn’t seem like the ideal style of play. Mike Krzyzewski recognized that the energy expended in the contest could play an impact in the next game, but said the plan was to focus on improving for the NCAA tournament.
“What we’ve talked about coming into this week is don’t pace yourself, play one game at a time, and let’s get better. We got better today. We had to get better because State was so good. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow. If it ends up we run out of gas,” Krzyzewski let it hang before proceeding, “the one thing we have going for us next week, we know we’re in the tournament. We’ll be a decent seed. We have spring break next week. That will help.”
Duke’s not playing just anyone in the next round, either. It’s Notre Dame, coached by former Duke assistant Mike Brey. Brey’s won four of five games against Duke since the Irish joined the ACC and he’s currently carrying an incredible 11-1 record against the schools from Tobacco Road (Duke, UNC, NC State and Wake Forest) over the last two seasons.
“They’re an explosive offensive team,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday. “I’ll tell you what, a game similar to this is the game in Cameron. We both scored over 90 points. They’re a really good offensive team and so are we. They’ll have a little bit more rest, but our guys will be ready to go.”
So Notre Dame has Duke’s number, has more rest and could be ready to push the pace, as they did against NC State last Saturday, after ranking No. 317 in adjusted tempo on the season. Grayson Allen, for one, isn’t worried about this young team getting worn down in the tournament.
“I think it will be easy to get the energy to get going and play,” Allen said. “Throughout the game we have to keep that energy up. That comes from talking to each other and making plays. But to start of [Thursday’s game against Notre Dame], I mean, we’ll all have energy. We’re all college kids playing in the ACC tournament. It’s fun.”
Oh yeah, and add one more thing to long list of things that have gone wrong for Duke this year on the injury front. Marshall Plumlee, the team’s vocal and emotional leader, suffered a broken nose against NC State.
Marshall Plumlee’s nose miiiiiight be broken, but he’s still battling. pic.twitter.com/3QnXExrwg8
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 9, 2016
And now he’s back in, grabbing rebounds and at the FT line. RT @JamieFamous72: Nope nope nope. pic.twitter.com/H5EpKZ2Ssz
— Joe Ovies (@joeovies) March 9, 2016
Playing four games in four days may not be in Duke’s best interest if this team is going to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, but tournament play has reinforced a sneaky advantage of Krzyzewski’s own version of “one and done,” “succeed and proceed” or whatever the latest catchy name is for getting the best talent in the land, even if they don’t stay for long.
When you reload every year, you stay young. That youth has helped Duke each of the last two years when the team has had its rotation unexpectedly trimmed and it will need to be the key to the Blue Devils extending their stay in Washington, D.C..