It’s not hard to admit

So, Duke’s basketball team is 19-6 through 25 games. They are ranked 20th in the country with about three weeks left in the regular season.

This is what a down year looks like.

Around the beginning of December, Duke was 9-1 and looked poised for another strong season. Then their senior captain, forward Amile Jefferson, went down with a foot injury that he’s yet to return from. And they’ve never really been the same without him. Since the 9-1 start the Blue Devils have won (just) 10 of their last 15 games, including a couple impressive wins this last week against #13 Louisville and #7 Virginia. Both games were close, and both were played at home in the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Beyond that, I’ve not paid nearly as much attention to Duke in 2015-’16. Last season they went 35-4 and won the National Championship; this year, without Amile Jefferson, they are going to struggle to make it out of the first weekend, or even first round, when the tournament gets underway in about a month. With Jefferson, they could get to the Sweet 16, but I’m not especially optimistic since I haven’t seen much evidence that this year’s team has any “special” qualities.

There are factors to the malaise of my love for Duke this winter, including but not limited to:

  1. At the end of 2015, there was roughly a two-month stretch where I was without cable. Duke wasn’t all that accessible.
  2. After National Championship years, there’s a natural letdown. I felt it in 2011, and I feel it this year. (2002 was a bad example, because that team was the title favorite. Also I don’t remember being 12 that well.)
  3. Kind of in cahoots with (1), at the start of the season it was tough to develop any sort of emotional connection to Duke. Since I’ve gotten “into it” over the last couple weeks, it feels more like I’m jumping into a television series midway through the season.
  4. The rise of politics. America is like all of my sports teams wrapped into one, and they never stop. It’s always in season.

 

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