Home » Blog » Duke’s Freshmen Once Again Deliver

Duke’s Freshmen Once Again Deliver

The Duke Blue Devils are returning to the Final Four for the 16th time in the program’s history and for the 12th under coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Duke basketball program has been successful for years but this season experience has reigned.

Duke will play Michigan State on Saturday in one of the two Final Four games with three freshmen starters and another freshman that sees considerable time off the bench.

Coach K said the team was his youngest ever. He tied the legendary coach of UCLA John Wooden with his 12th appearance in the Final Four, yet the youth on the team make this trip next weekend to the Final Four unlike any previously made.

In the current era of one and done, it is not surprising that a team which is led by a group of freshmen has reached the Final Four.

Kentucky’s recent teams and even as long ago as Syracuse in 2003 there have been freshmen carrying teams, but just never at Duke.

Of course, it is not just the freshmen who have helped the Blue Devils reach the Final Four. There are only eight players in Duke’s rotation, with everyone playing an important role.

None of those roles has been more important that Quinn Cook’s. Many questioned if the senior guard could play alongside freshmen sensation Tyus Jones, as the role for Cook changed from playing the point to playing off the ball.

Cook adapted well and became the unquestioned leader on the team and the positive influence that is needed on a roster full of such young players.

Krzyzewski has had a number of one and one players before including Austin Rivers, Kyrie Irving and last year’s Jabari Parker.

Justise Winslow tied as the leading scoring on Sunday against Gonzaga with Matt Jones and provided the 3-point basket that gave the Blue Devils a 9-point lead with just 2:42  on the clock.

Jahlil Okafor arguably the team’s best player has heard all season about his lack of defense. Yet he deflected and stole a pass from Kevin Pangos and dribbled in from midcourt of an easy layup.

Gonzaga came out quick in the second half and after a run of 12-3 following the break, took their largest lead of the game. However, Duke did not panic, as many young teams might.

As Coach K did back in Charlotte when the team was just seconds from a Sweet 16 trip, he unexpectedly relaxed and happily told his players in the last huddle for a timeout that they were headed to Indianapolis.

The players might have “F” for Freshmen on the program before their names, but they are far from being immature, nervous and inexperienced. The youngsters have come of age this season and now have a shot at winning the national title.

  • 100%