Scheyer’s Early Seasons Beyond Senior Night

Photo of Scheyers, Duke Blue Devils men's basketball Head coach, since 2022.

In the whirlwind of sensational sports coverage, the nuances often escape notice. Despite Duke’s recent loss to UNC, where the Tar Heels displayed dominance, it’s unfair to solely hold Jon Scheyer accountable. While these defeats may sting, they shouldn’t overshadow the progress Scheyer has achieved in shaping Duke’s future.

Over the years, Duke fans have grappled with frustration as highly-touted teams stumble against seemingly lesser opponents. This season’s Blue Devils, featuring a blend of seniors and sophomores, may appear seasoned compared to previous freshman-heavy squads, yet they remain relatively youthful. On the contrary, North Carolina’s embrace of transfers and super seniors has fortified their lineup, presenting Duke with a formidable challenge.

The disappointment felt by those anticipating Duke’s utilization of the transfer portal to address roster deficiencies is understandable, yet the situation is more intricate than it appears. Duke seemed poised to secure highly sought-after transfer center Ernest Udeh Jr. during the summer, but complications with admissions presented an insurmountable barrier.

While transfers can greatly impact a team’s success, as evidenced by UNC’s recent achievements and Brady Manek’s pivotal role in past seasons, relying solely on them comes with considerable risk. Last season’s UNC squad serves as a cautionary tale; despite high expectations, they missed the tournament largely due to a transfer, Pete Nance, failing to effectively replace Manek’s contributions.

Scheyer seems to have deliberately chosen to prioritize long-term stability and teams with higher potential over short-term volatility. He has emphasized the need to alter Duke’s recruiting approach to form older, more cohesive teams. This season, Duke supporters have glimpsed the advantages of this approach, with the Blue Devils achieving a commendable 15-5 record in the ACC, including notable away victories in challenging venues such as Raleigh and Blacksburg.

However, despite the presence of players like Young and senior Jeremy Roach, Duke still lacks the experience, especially when compared to the more seasoned Tar Heel squad, which boasts two players over the age of 24. It may take another season or two before we can gauge the effectiveness of Scheyer’s strategy, particularly as older players in college basketball graduate and Duke endeavors to retain juniors and seniors who have matured within the program to complement talented freshmen.

Therefore, it’s premature to draw final conclusions based solely on two games against UNC in Scheyer’s second season, especially when considering that the composition of the UNC team will soon become a historical anomaly.

Before drawing conclusions, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the current Duke team boasts a 24-7 record and holds the No. 10 spot in the NCAA’s NET Rankings. Moreover, they are well-positioned to vie for an ACC Tournament Title in the upcoming weekend. As the disappointment of senior night dissipates, fans of the Blue Devils should understand that there are still many reasons to anticipate this March, with even greater potential to look forward to in the future.


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