A lot can happen in three weeks. But for the now-cloistered world of Duke basketball, the past 21 days were marked by events that didn’t happen.
The Blue Devils had to cancel two conference games due to positive COVID-19 tests from opposing teams, after they had already canceled half of their nonconference slate. Then, last week, head coach Mike Krzyzewski was exposed to a family member who tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him to stay in quarantine until at least Saturday.
So, it will be an odd sight—well, more odd than usual these days—to see Coach K absent from the sidelines at Cameron Indoor Stadium Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. when No. 21 Duke faces off against Boston College. In the lead up to the contest, Krzyzewski has been coaching his team virtually, watching practice through Zoom and making FaceTime calls to each player.
“There is no template for this,” Krzyzewski said. “I feel bad for our guys.”
One player who may need Krzyzewski’s wisdom most is sophomore forward Wendell Moore Jr. Moore has struggled mightily this season to live up to his five-star potential, averaging just 3.8 points per game so far. Duke’s matchup against a weak Boston College team could be his chance to find his mojo.
“All players hit a wall at some point in their career, and this happens to be my wall,” Moore said in a Dec. 31 press conference. “My game will come back around. My teammates have my back. They believe in me, and I’m doing everything I can to make them proud.”
In Krzyzewski’s absence, associate head coach Jon Scheyer will take over as head coach. Scheyer and the rest of the coaching staff have been leading the team through drills this week with Krzyzewski advising through a computer screen, and this game may be a rare opportunity to see if Scheyer has what it takes to lead the Blue Devils after Krzyzewski retires.
No matter how well Krzyzewski’s assistant coaches work on a Coach K-less Coach K Court, Duke (3-2, 1-0 in the ACC) will boast fresh legs, with the cancellations giving the Blue Devils more time to rest than they had anticipated. Moore took the time to get some shots up and enjoy a long-awaited respite with his family.
“We have definitely seen some benefits from the break,” Moore said. “Not only was it a mental health thing, but it also gave us time to rest. We’ve been [on campus] since Aug. 2.”
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Whether Duke will be rested or merely rusted will reveal itself Wednesday evening. In either case, the Blue Devils hold a massive advantage over Boston College (2-7, 0-3).
The Eagles have surprisingly not had to cancel or postpone any games so far this season—since Duke’s most recent contest Dec. 16, Boston College has played three games.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, an upside-down world has not turned them into a relevant squad in the ACC. Boston College’s only two wins on the season came against lowly Rhode Island and Maine, with the team losing all three of its ACC contests to begin the season.
The one bright spot for the Eagles has been junior guard Wynston Tabbs. Tabbs has lit up from deep, shooting 41.5 percent beyond the arc and averaging 15.6 points per game.
Aside from Tabbs and backcourt mate Jay Heath, though, Boston College lacks everything else. Duke big men Matthew Hurt, Jaemyn Brakefield and Mark Williams should clean up in the paint.
With no Cameron Crazies and no Coach K, it may be difficult to recognize Duke Wednesday evening. So while Boston College may not present the greatest of threats, the Blue Devils—and Scheyer specifically—will face a test of their mettle against the Eagles.