CHAPEL HILL—As Duke shuffled off Roy Williams Court and down the hall toward its locker room, there was near silence. Coach K, initially ahead of the group, stepped to the side, watching as his young team headed for the showers.

The only one to speak was Zion Williamson.

"We're gonna see them next week."

In all likelihood, the Blue Devils will get a third crack at their rivals, this time at the ACC tournament in Charlotte—just as they did each of the last two seasons in Brooklyn.

But more important for Duke than a shot at payback is the opportunity to turn the page and start a new season.

"Just the fact that we can hit a reset button—if Zion’s healthy and whatever, then we’ll have a chance," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Just to be together. They’ve shown that when they’re together, they’re very good. We’ve been good, not real good, without Zion. The kids have fought, but it’s inconsistent. It’s not at the level that’s needed to win a championship."

Despite Saturday's loss, the Blue Devils' mood was not nearly as somber as after previous defeats—three of which have come in the last six games.

Maybe it was because Duke knows that Williamson is close to returning. Krzyzewski said that although the Blue Devils' star freshman has not yet participated in a practice with contact, the plan is to have Williamson be a full-go for Monday's session as Duke gears up for Thursday's game.

Maybe it was because the Blue Devils knew what they needed to do to nearly pull off another miracle comeback. After being down 15, Duke held the Tar Heels scoreless for almost six minutes, and had a couple of shots fallen in the final 90 seconds, the outcome may have very well been different.

Or maybe it's because the postseason is on the horizon, with the chance to put everything from the season's first 31 games behind them.

"As a team, we’ve got to learn from this loss," Tre Jones said. "We fought all 40 minutes and we just came up short tonight, so we’ve got to learn from this game like we do from all the others....  But we’ve just got to be hungrier. Everybody’s record is the same right now, so the hungriest team is going to play the hardest."

Henry Haggart

The Blue Devils' regular season ended at 26-5 with 14 wins in ACC play. But as R.J. Barrett explained, Duke is now back to 0-0.

Yes, a No. 1 seed and preferred NCAA tournament sites are at stake this week in Charlotte—with North Carolina on the rise, it's very possible that the Blue Devils get bumped out of Columbia, S.C., for the opening weekend before being shipped to either Kansas City or Anaheim, Calif., for regionals.

Along with those things, there's also an ACC tournament crown up for grabs. Certainly, Duke would be thrilled to bring its 21st back to Durham.

There's a sense, though, that the most critical element of these next seven days is the chance to get this team back to where it was Nov. 6 when the Blue Devils thrashed Kentucky and looked like the runaway favorites to be celebrating in Minneapolis next month. 

"[The] regular season just ended. The way we see it, we’re 0-0," R.J. Barrett said. "Everything we’ve done up to now, it was great, but now is where really we’ve got to be focused and every game counts."

Duke knows how to win nine games in a row—the Blue Devils, ironically enough, have done it twice already, once between the Gonzaga and Syracuse losses, and then again until the first defeat at the hands of the Tar Heels.

If Duke can win nine straight a third time, it will get to raise two more banners to the rafters of Cameron Indoor.

"We’re definitely looking forward to it," Cam Reddish said when asked if he was excited for a redemption against North Carolina. "We’re ready to get back at it, get back to work, and I think it’s as simple as that."