Duke men's basketball's 2022-23 regular season has come to an end, and the Blue Zone looks back on the past 31 games before the Blue Devils enter the postseason:
The 2022-23 season was a special new beginning in many ways, but it will go down in history as the start of the Scheyer Era. Former head coach Mike Krzyzewski was no longer patrolling the sidelines of his namesake court after retiring last spring. Leaving the program after 42 years and five national championships, 15 conference championships and 13 regular-season ACC titles, one of the greatest coaches in all of college basketball history passed the torch to none other than Jon Scheyer. A former Blue Devil great who led his squad to the 2010 NCAA title, the Northbrook, Ill., native has been a part of Duke’s coaching staff since the 2013-14 season, where he has helped mold players like first-overall NBA Draft picks Zion Williamson and Paolo Banchero. As Krzyzewski’s successor, Scheyer has had big shoes to fill and tall hills to climb. Even with the ups and downs of his first campaign at the helm, he did not disappoint.
The first ACC head coach in history to go undefeated at home in their first season, Scheyer led his team to a 23-8 overall record while going 14-6 in the conference. Highlighted by keys wins against North Carolina and N.C. State, the rookie earned his stripes as he navigated player injuries and erratic road play. Despite initial doubts about the direction of his inaugural roster, Scheyer proved his coaching savvy as his team has grown to be a postseason threat. With a win against the Tar Heels on March 4 to increase the Blue Devils’ win streak to six, the first-year young gun is poised for a successful career.
Something was in the air for Duke this season as it went undefeated — 16-0 — on Coach K Court. Starting with their dominant win against Jacksonville in the first home matchup of the season, the Blue Devils were at their best in Durham when fueled by the rarified air of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even with shaky games on the road, Duke brought its A game to the hardwood in front of the home crowd with stellar defense, elite passing and efficient shooting.
The Blue Devils reached the pinnacle of their hometown fever on Feb. 4 against North Carolina, when all the puzzle pieces came together for Scheyer’s squad. Behind a 20-point performance from junior captain Jeremy Roach, Duke’s 63 points were tallied via masterful playmaking by freshman Tyrese Proctor and show stopping dunks from fellow rookies Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively II. The Blue Devils gave the Tar Heels a master class in defense as well. Lively’s eight blocks and 14 rebounds provided a glimpse of his NBA potential, while two steals from Proctor showed why he was nationally ranked in the 92nd percentile defensively entering the regular-season finale. The 63-57 win was not only a dominant display but also proof of their potential to be a postseason powerhouse.
The true evidence of the magic of Cameron, however, came in the final home contest against the Wolfpack. In its initial clash in Raleigh, N.C. State delivered Duke a proper beating in an 84-60 rout that brought up concerns about the Blue Devils’ play against quality opponents. Nonetheless, Coach K Court worked wonders for Duke as it earned its Wolfpack redemption in a 71-67 victory. The Blue Devils achieved their revenge with the signature Duke energy on their side as four out of five of its starters scored in the double digits. Few things in this world are certain, but one thing is for sure: There is no place like home.
The Blue Devils’ road performance has been a paragon of inconsistency all season long. Starting with an 81-70 loss at Wake Forest, Duke struggled to get its offense going and keep its defense sharp. After dropping big games at N.C. State and Clemson, it seemed as though Scheyer’s squad was rattled and unnerved by away fans as it failed to live up to its potential. The losing streak kept getting worse with a 78-75 loss to Virginia Tech before an absolute beating by Miami, 81-59.
The Blue Devils’ road game against the Cavaliers, however, twisted the knife that much deeper. Then-No. 8 Virginia was expected to take care of Duke handily, but the team was willing to give the Cavaliers a run for their money. With the contest all tied up 58-58 in the last minute of the second half, an attempted dunk by Filipowski looked like it might send the Blue Devil to the line, where his 77.8% free-throw shooting would likely go the distance. However, in a controversial ruling that the ACC later announced to be incorrect, Duke did not earn its saving grace of a foul call and went on to lose in overtime, 69-62.
Battered and bruised, that Blue Devil loss was a turning point, and that showed against Syracuse. In arguably one of the most difficult away arenas in college basketball, Duke showed out in a 77-55 victory in front of a crowd of 31,063 people in the JMA Wireless Dome. There was something in the Orange for the Blue Devils as Roach and Filiiposwki combined for 31 points while freshman Dariq Whitehead was on fire with 14 points and four 3-pointers. A spark of hope emerged for Duke with the win against Syracuse, and soon a flame of optimism was ablaze.
Determined to show the college basketball world that they could play on the road, the Blue Devils chose the ultimate stage to prove themselves: the Dean Dome, against North Carolina in the regular-season finale. In perhaps its toughest road challenge yet, Duke did not flinch as it topped the Tar Heels, 62-57. The Blue Devils delivered arguably their best away performance with lockdown defense and incredible playmaking fit for a postseason contender. Along with the consistency of Roach and Filipowski, both Proctor and fellow freshman Mark Mitchell scored double digits to take down North Carolina. Home may be where the heart is, but Duke’s recent away victories are the real proof that it can compete against anyone.
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