ChronSports Top 10 of 2023 — No. 2: Duke men's basketball takes home ACC tournament title in Scheyer's first season as head coach

<p>Head coach Jon Scheyer cuts down the net at Greensboro Coliseum following the Blue Devils' ACC title win.</p>

Head coach Jon Scheyer cuts down the net at Greensboro Coliseum following the Blue Devils' ACC title win.

As the bow gets tied on 2023, The Chronicle’s sports department is reviewing the biggest storylines in Duke athletics throughout the year. Each day until the calendar flips to January, we will cover two of the most significant moments in Blue Devil sports from 2023.

Coming in at No. 2: In a year marked by ups and downs, Duke men’s basketball won the ACC title in Jon Scheyer’s first season as head coach. For the full list, click here.

On Feb. 11, Duke was tied up against then-No. 8-ranked Virginia with 1.2 seconds left in regulation. Then-freshman center Kyle Filipowski went up for a layup and initially earned a foul call, only for it to be waved off. The Blue Devils would go on to lose in overtime, and the ACC would later announce an “incorrect adjudication” on the call. This defeat put Duke at 8-6 in the conference, furthering doubts about its ability to recapture its winning ways of old.

Little did anyone know, it was exactly the motivation Duke needed to right the ship.

The Blue Devils entered the 2022-23 season in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since 1980, Mike Krzyzewski was not at the helm as head coach. Krzyzewski protégé and former player Jon Scheyer earned the head coaching title, proclaiming that the Duke was “in a position to pursue a national championship” at his introductory press conference May 3, 2022.

With only four players from the previous season’s Final Four run still on the roster, the new-look Blue Devils sported a youth movement. Junior guard Jeremy Roach captained a squad with seven freshmen on it. The first big men of the Scheyer era included Filipowski and Dereck Lively II, with forward Mark Mitchell accompanying them in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, Australian guard Tyrese Proctor reclassified to the 2022 class, joining Roach in the backcourt.

Duke’s route to the ACC tournament had its rough moments. Kansas and Purdue both confidently bested Scheyer’s young squad in early-season, neutral-site contests. Against N.C. State Jan. 4, the Blue Devils lost by 24 points, the worst margin of defeat for Duke since 2013. Even in some wins, the Blue Devils looked shaky; they won by a single point against a middling Boston College team Jan. 7. Injuries also affected the roster, with Lively and freshman forward Dariq Whitehead missing minutes early in the season.

However, while the lows were low, the highs were high. The Blue Devils notched a perfect 16-0 record at Cameron Indoor Stadium on the season, which included a 14-rebound, eight-block performance by Lively to best North Carolina Feb. 4. Filipowski and Roach emerged as All-ACC-caliber players, while Lively asserted himself as one of the best rim protectors in the nation.

And then, Duke lost controversially to the Cavaliers in the extra frame. This loss could have sent an already inconsistent season into free fall, yet it seemed to energize Scheyer and the young Blue Devils. Duke won its next six, closing out its regular season with a sweep of the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, courtesy of a 22-point effort from Filipowski. With their win against North Carolina, the Blue Devils notched the No. 4-seed and a double-bye in the tournament. 

Duke opened tournament play in Greensboro, N.C., March 9 against Pittsburgh, who had matched the Blue Devils’ record of 14-6 in the conference. Propelled by two Filipowski treys, Duke got out to a 12-0 start before the Panthers even had time to blink. Pittsburgh never led during the contest, which ended in a 96-69 blowout. Four Blue Devils hit double-digit figures in scoring and Scheyer emptied nearly his entire bench in the emphatic victory.

The next day, Duke took on No. 1-seed Miami in the semifinals, hoping to exact revenge for a blowout loss suffered earlier in the season. This time, Duke’s shooting, which hadn’t been a strength for much of the year, was on full display. Collectively, the Blue Devils made 50% of their threes and 84% of their free throws. Whitehead came in clutch at the end of the first half, scoring six points in the last 2:07 to give Duke the lead for good. With the 85-78 victory, the Blue Devils reached the ACC Championship in back-to-back seasons.

In poetic fashion, Duke’s challenger in the contest was the same team who sparked its momentum — Virginia. The first half of the championship was sluggish, with both teams combining for just 41 points at the break. Duke carried its seven-point halftime lead into a strong second half, earning a 59-49 victory and clinching Duke’s first ACC tournament title since 2019. Roach and Filipowski, the tournament’s MVP, combined for 43 points, while the Blue Devils held the Cavaliers to a 33.3% clip from the field.

With the tournament’s end, Duke earned the ACC’s automatic bid to March Madness, while Filipowski, Roach and Lively were named to assorted All-Tournament teams. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, their season would end March 18 in a second-round upset loss to Tennessee, cutting short both a 10-game winning streak and championship aspirations.

In the offseason, many of Duke’s players that made the 2022-23 season so memorable forwent expectations of declaring for the draft, opting instead to return and chase the Blue Devils’ sixth national title. Filipowski, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, has played at an All-American level thus far in the 2023-24 season. Mitchell has elevated his scoring load, while Proctor currently sports one of the better assist-to-turnover ratios in Division-I basketball. 

Despite the premature ending, Scheyer earned his flowers for winning the ACC title, pulling off something that Krzyzewski couldn’t do the year before with an arguably more talented roster. The resilience of his team to battle through injuries, crushing losses and a controversial no-call gave Blue Devil fans quite the season to remember.

Read more: 

MATTER CLOSED: Duke men's basketball exacts its revenge, takes down Virginia to win ACC tournament

BLUE DEVILS STRIKE BACK: Duke men's basketball avenges Final Four loss with crunch-time win against North Carolina

SWEEP: Filipowski, Duke men's basketball take thrilling regular-season finale at North Carolina

HOOS BLUES: Duke men's basketball outlasted by No. 8 Virginia in overtime thriller

ACC announces 'incorrect adjudication' on final play of regulation in Duke men's basketball's overtime loss at Virginia

HARD KNOX: Duke men's basketball eliminated from NCAA tournament with second-round loss to Tennessee

The Chronicle's Duke men's basketball 2023-24 season preview


Share and discuss “ChronSports Top 10 of 2023 — No. 2: Duke men's basketball takes home ACC tournament title in Scheyer's first season as head coach” on social media.