Usually, the Duke Blue Devils spend the winter months beating up on ACC underachievers and proving themselves in nationally-televised contests against fellow post-season powers. On-court excellence has essentially become the status quo in Durham, and for outsiders, a trip to the college hoops mecca known as Cameron Indoor Stadium is rarely a pleasant experience.
But lately, times have been a little tougher than expected for the 17th-ranked Blue Devils. The unpleasant odor of entitlement reattached itself to Duke about three seconds after guard Grayson Allen was crowned as the game’s dirtiest player. With head coach Mike Krzyzewski temporarily out of action, backup bench-boss Jeff Capel has guided Duke to an unacceptable 2-3 despite taking over a team that won 13 of its first 15 games. And most recently, Duke dropped its first home game to North Carolina State in 22 years in Monday’s 84-82 shocker.
Faithful followers of Blue Devil basketball will argue that last year’s team encountered a similar mid-winter slide. Last January, Duke suffered a five-point loss to Clemson despite strutting into South Carolina with just two losses on its resume, but that loss was just the beginning for the Blue Devils who would go on to lose each of their next two games to Notre Dame and Syracuse—both at home, before eventually losing at Miami for their fourth loss in five games.
That team reached last season’s Sweet 16 before losing to Oregon and finishing a very respectable 25-11. But Coach K’s absence, Allen’s antics, and good old fashion inconsistency have combined to sew the seeds of doubt about this season’s squad. And at 3-4 in the conference, Duke’s doubters have even dared to wonder if the Blue Devils are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1995.
After dropping consecutive contests at no.6 Florida State and 13th-ranked Louisville earlier this month, Capel was forced to stray from Coach K’s latest preferred starting five in order to avoid a third straight loss midway through last week’s badly-needed win over Miami. Ultimately, Capel’s tinkering worked, and while the Blue Devils lost their very next game to N.C. State, senior forward Amile Jefferson was confident that his team has what it’ll take to improve following Duke’s win over Miami.
“We have eight guys that can start at any point, and we have eight guys that are starters or at least see themselves that way,” said Jefferson. “That should be the beauty of our team. Once heart, effort and defense becomes who we are, we’ll skyrocket. We’ll get better really fast.”
Outside of college basketball big-shots like Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas, losing three of four and owning a record of 15-5 isn’t reason for panic. However, losses poison the brand of any program preaching perennial excellence, and Allen’s consistently questionable on-court behavior has magnified Duke’s recent difficulties while giving rival fans another reason to despise the Blue Devils.
Seemingly determined to surpass Christian Laettner as the most widely hated player in Duke’s history, Allen began his collegiate career as a high-flying scorer with decent range and an undeniable passion. As we now know, not even his offensive abilities have been enough to overshadow Allen’s well-deserved reputation as a cheap-shot artist after kicking, tripping and shoving several opponents.
In December, Allen earned an “indefinite” suspension for tripping Elon’s Steven Santa Ana, and it appeared as though Duke, and specifically Krzyzewski, had finally had enough. With several obvious incidents under his belt that both the NCAA and Duke had already let slide, Allen definitely deserved to ride the pine.
“It’s a learning experience,” Krzyzewski told listeners of The Dan Patrick Show. “I’m going to use it as that, as a teaching moment. And a teaching moment does not stop by giving one game. Or maybe that’s what it is. I don’t know that right now.”
Apparently, “indefinite” does mean only one game in Durham, and Coach K allowed Allen to return after essentially giving him a night off for the Blue Devil’s New Year’s Eve loss at Virginia Tech.
Returning Allen to the starting five may have made Krzyzewski feel more confident about leaving Capel at the controls, but lifting the suspension so quickly has only added to Allen’s reputation as a privileged player who keeps getting away with what ever he wants.
Throughout the first few months of this season, sophomore sharp-shooter Luke Kennard has replaced Allen as the team’s top offensive threat, and the play of Kennard, Jefferson, and Jason Tatum will determine Duke’s destiny—not Allen. But until either Krzyzewski, the University, or NCAA actually does something about Allen’s antics, he’ll remain the game’s most hated distraction and the Blue Devils will continue to pay the price.
Georgetown’s Josh LeBlanc, Galen Alexander, Myron Gardner Face Numerous Complaints
Georgetown Hoyas’ basketball players Josh LeBlanc and Galen Alexander received restraining orders sometime in November resulting from accusations of harassment and burglary, and freshman Myron Gardner was accused of “sexual harassment and assault,” according to one of the filings, according to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.
ESPN obtained court records that were filed on November 5th by a Georgetown student, a restraining order against LeBlanc and Alexander, a request that was granted on November 20th after both players failed to appear
In response to an alleged burglary that I believe Joshua LeBlanc committed against me on September 16, 2019, Joshua threatened bodily harm against myself and my roommate,” the complaint read. “He continued to threaten me verbally and via text message in the following week.”
Later, on November 13th, the student’s roommate filed for a separate restraining order against Gardner, LeBlanc and Alexander, accusing Gardner of sexually harassing and assaulting her back on September 15th, and said that her home was burglarized by Gardner, LeBlanc and Alexander on September 16th.
She also noted she filed complaints with both the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington and Georgetown University Police Department.
“Georgetown University men’s basketball players James Akinjo and Josh LeBlanc will not be playing for the men’s basketball team effective immediately and will not be members of the team for the remainder of the season,” Georgetown said in an official statement.
“Georgetown takes student conduct issues very seriously and ensures that they are investigated thoroughly. While we are not able to comment on specific cases, we have processes for investigating and adjudicating alleged violations for our student code that are fair to both parties. We encourage any student who has a concern to be in contact with the Georgetown University Police Department or the Office of Student Conduct.”
Memphis’ James Wiseman Declared Ineligible
Memphis Tigers star James Wiseman has been declared ineligible and will be withheld from competition while the school awaits reinstatement from the NCAA, according to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.
Earlier on Thursday, it was announced that Wiseman had dropped his lawsuit against the NCAA, which was a restraining order, according to an official statement issued by Wiseman’s legal team:
Wiseman is the projected number 1 overall pick for the 2020 NBA Draft.
Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer Rules Out Return as Coach
Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer ruled out a potential return as the Vols head coach, saying he no desire to return to the sideline and that the “coaching chapter of my life is closed”, according to ESPN’s Chris Low.
Fulmer, 69, led the Vols to a national championship in 1998. Fulmer was fired at the end of the 2008 season following a second losing season in four years.
“We’ve got a good football coach, and I believe in Jeremy Pruitt totally,” Fulmer said. “I have no interest in coaching again and would rather spend that time being a grandfather and doing whatever I can as athletic director in helping Jeremy get this program where we all want it to be. Any talk of me coaching again is just a bunch of rumors.”
Fulmer’s only focus is being the AD at his alma mater.
“I’m way past that point in my life,” Fulmer said. “I love the job I have [as AD] and am committed to seeing this thing through.”
“Jeremy Pruitt is as bought in as anybody could possibly be bought in at the University of Tennessee,” Fulmer said.
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