Mike Krzyzewski's return to the sideline Saturday resulted in a win, per usual. But things were much more difficult than anybody could've reasonably anticipated.
Yes, this was a game between the nation's preseason No. 1 team (Duke) and the ACC's last-place team (Pittsburgh). But it was still tied at the half. And the Panthers led 43-42 with fewer than nine minutes remaining before Duke pulled away late.
Final score: Duke 72, Pitt 64.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Grayson Allen led Duke in scoring and tripping
The CBS Sports preseason National Player of the Year took 13 shots, made six and finished with 21 points, six assists and six rebounds. Nice outing. But, naturally, it was overshadowed by yet another tripping incident. I'm not going to pretend it was intentional. And it should be noted that the officials only called a common foul. I'm just mentioning it because all online sports sites are required to post everything Allen does with any of his extremities.
So here you go ...
Another game, another Grayson Allen tripping. pic.twitter.com/T5JkKp9gas— Renato Mazariegos (@RPMSports18) February 4, 2017
There were times pre-surgery when cameras caught Krzyzewski sitting awkwardly in his chair, clearly trying to alleviate back pain however possible. I noticed none of that Saturday. He looked better. Seemed better. And he got the kind of ovation you'd expect the winningest coach in history to get when he entered Coach K Court inside Cameron Indoor Stadium in advance of Saturday's game.
Take a look ...
WATCH: Mike Krzyzewski takes the floor at Cameron for the 1st time since his back surgery. pic.twitter.com/pYVnPER8Uk— Joedy McCreary (@JoedyAP) February 4, 2017
It's been a weird season at Duke for reasons we've gone over a million times. But now look. The Blue Devils are 18-5, ranked 13th at KenPom and in possession of a three-game winning streak heading into Thursday's showdown with North Carolina. And if they beat UNC, they'll suddenly be in position to do what they were projected to do in the preseason, i.e., win the ACC's regular-season title.
This is why it was dumb to write Duke's obituary in January.
The Blue Devils were always, in February, going to have nine McDonald's All-Americans and a Hall of Fame coach, and that's a recipe for good things. It doesn't guarantee good things, obviously. But it makes good things possible. And it's why I still won't be surprised if Duke wins the national championship.
The pieces are in place.
It's just a matter of things clicking.