There's no defense for No. 4 Duke losing to St. John’s, but still time to get things right
St. John's, 0-11 in the Big East, steps out of conference play and snaps an 11-game skid vs. Duke
It will always be shocking when a team on an 11-game losing streak beats a team ranked fourth in the nation. That kind of thing never makes sense. But if it were ever going to happen, this is probably the time for it. Because nonsensical results in games that were mismatches on paper have been fairly common this season.
"We got what we deserved," Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters at New York's Madison Square Garden on Saturday after his Duke Blue Devils lost 81-77 to the Big East's last-place team.
Yes, Duke lost to St. John's.
Which means Duke lost to a team that's 0-11 in the Big East. To a team that's already lost twice to Georgetown. To a team that lost 91-74 at home to DePaul. To a team that's playing without its second leading scorer (Marcus LoVett). And to a team that spent last Saturday losing 70-45 at Butler.
The only thing crazier, at least from a point-spread perspective, was Oklahoma State despite being a 12-point favorite. But it should be noted that Oklahoma State entered with wins over Oklahoma, Florida State and Texas. And Kansas had already lost twice inside Allen Fieldhouse this season. So with all due respect to the oddsmakers, that surprising result really didn't feel as crazy as the preseason No. 1 losing as an 11-point favorite to a team on an 11-game losing streak.to
Yes, Duke lost to St. John's.
So that's now 11 times this season that a team ranked in the top 10 of the preseason AP poll has lost to a sub-75 KenPom opponent. Without context, that might mean nothing to you. But understand that. So this is definitely excessive. And Duke is responsible for two of those sub-75 losses.
The problem, once again, was defense.
St. John's got one easy shot after another regardless of whether Duke was playing man-to-man or zone. The Red Storm ended up shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from 3-point range. On the season, St. John's effective field-goal percentage is 47.9, which ranks 289th nationally. Against Duke, it was 55.9, which is a number good enough currently to rank 25th nationally.
"It was tough for us to defend them," Krzyzewski said. "We made ourselves look bad. We did not play basketball, the first 32 minutes, worthy of our program. We had blank faces. We didn't talk. We were like five individuals out there. And it was disgusting."
It's hard to argue with that assessment, if only because it defies logic that a roster this talented could be so awesome on one end of the court and so ineffective on the other. Duke is now No. 2 in offensive efficiency and No. 69 in defensive efficiency. In other words, the Blue Devils are as good as Villanova and Purdue on the offensive end of the court, and as bad as UC Davis and UC Irvine on the other. And until that's fixed, or at least improved, Duke will remain susceptible to losses like this loss.
That said, it's not all bad.
Duke is still 19-4 overall, 7-3 in the ACC and ranked fourth in KenPom thanks to a resume featuring six top-50 wins. On this same day in 2015, Duke was 18-3 overall, 5-3 in the ACC and ranked seventh in KenPom thanks to a resume featuring six top-50 wins. And that Duke team went on to win a national title. So making any grand prisoner-of-the-moment statements about what Duke won't or can't do seems foolish right now.
The talent is still in place.
There's still time to get things right.
But, undeniably, things must get right and fast. The Blue Devils are visiting North Carolina on Thursday. And if you can lose to the Red Storm at MSG, you can certainly lose to the Tar Heels at the Dean Smith Center.
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