Duke and Kentucky missed the NCAA Event so March Insanity will happen with out two of the most important packages within the historical past of NCAA basketball.
The NCAA Event is about to start out this week and it will likely be uncommon for causes past the actual fact it’s being staged in the midst of a world pandemic. A fast look on the discipline reveals that Duke isn’t within the discipline for the primary time since 1995 whereas Kentucky can also be MIA, ending effectively under .500 to fall wanting even the NIT.
The Blue Devils and Wildcats weren’t alone when it comes to blue blood struggles this season. Indiana missed the sphere solely. Michigan State needed a late surge in Big Ten play to sneak into the field whereas North Carolina, UCLA and Louisville had been among the many traditional powerhouses to underachieve in comparison with their lofty requirements.
What occurred to the blue bloods this season?
The best reply to determine what occurred to the blue bloods is finding out how the coronavirus pandemic impacted school basketball’s offseason. Well being restrictions stored groups off-campus for a lot of the summer time, considerably chopping into the coaching camp interval that permits groups to arrange for the upcoming season.
That offseason interval could be very worthwhile for blue bloods like Duke and Kentucky, which have closely utilized the one-and-done rule to recruit a number of the nation’s most gifted freshmen to fill out their beginning lineups. Whereas it’s true that neither the Blue Devils nor Wildcats put collectively as robust a category as they normally do, a typical offseason would have offered loads of time for Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari to assist their groups gel forward of the common season.
Eradicating that coaching interval decreased the runway for groups to determine easy methods to get these gifted particular person gamers to work collectively as a unit, which means that the non-conference portion of the schedule ended up serving as a de facto coaching camp for many groups. Calipari had an incredible perception within the expertise of his gamers and scheduled aggressively within the non-conference season, including video games towards Georgia Tech, Louisville, Richmond and Notre Dame to associate with beforehand dedicated matchups towards Kansas and North Carolina.
The Wildcats misplaced all six of these video games, placing themselves in a deep 1-6 gap earlier than SEC play even started. There have been additionally chemistry points with Kentucky since one of many few returning veterans on Kentucky’s roster, ahead Keion Brooks, missed a number of weeks with an ankle harm because the staff’s struggles continued.
Calipari even briefly dismissed freshman Cam’Ron Fletcher from the staff as he felt that Fletcher’s perspective was a poor affect on the remainder of the Wildcats. Fletcher was reinstated lower than per week later, however Kentucky was by no means capable of get moving into SEC play both, struggling towards a difficult schedule as groups like Alabama, Missouri and Arkansas surged to affix Tennessee, Florida and LSU as event threats within the convention.
Duke skilled a number of related issues as Kentucky, however Krzyzewski knew one thing was fallacious as quickly because the Blue Devils dropped residence video games to Michigan State and Illinois in non-conference play. Pondering that his staff wanted a psychological break, Krzyzewski canceled the rest of Duke’s non-conference schedule in mid-December to permit his staff to recharge forward of ACC play.
The transfer backfired because the Blue Devils struggled to get into an everyday rhythm, struggling a pair of key three-game shedding streaks in January and early February. The losses themselves featured some uncharacteristic defeats from a Duke staff, together with a loss to a short-handed Miami staff that had been ravaged by COVID infections in addition to a house defeat towards a struggling Notre Dame squad.
Krzyzewski additionally struggled to determine the best rotations for his staff, an issue that was exacerbated by the shortened preseason and his choice to cancel three non-conference video games the Blue Devils may have used as tuneups for the ACC schedule. An enormous a part of the issue additionally concerned a wierd relationship with gifted freshman Jalen Johnson, who missed time with an harm however by no means appeared to slot in with Duke’s tradition.
Johnson left this system in late February, opting to concentrate on making ready for the NBA Draft as a substitute of serving to the Blue Devils make an NCAA Event push. Duke started to play higher basketball at that time, scoring important wins over Virginia and Syracuse to bolster their event hopes, however one other three-game shedding streak on the finish of the regular-season left the Blue Devils at 11-11, which means they wanted to primarily win the ACC’s automated bid in Greensboro to go dancing, which didn’t occur after a optimistic COVID take a look at brought about Duke to withdraw previous to a quarterfinal matchup with Florida State.
It will likely be fascinating to see if this 12 months is solely an outlier fueled by the pandemic or an indication of issues to come back for the faculty basketball energy construction. It’s unlikely that the blue bloods will go away anytime quickly however the truth stays that one in every of them is extremely unlikely to win the NCAA Event until Kansas finds a solution to stun the sphere as a No. 3 seed.
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