Bagley to Duke | Let us get irresponsible in celebration and anger

Jan 06, 2016 : An unhappy Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski during the regular season matchup between Wake Forest and Duke at Lawrence-Joel Memorial Coliseum in Winston Salem,NC. Blue Devils win 91-75 over the Demon Deacons. (Photo by Jim Dedmon/ Icon Sportswire)
Jim Dedmon/Icon Sportswire

Stop me if you heard this one before, but the Duke Blue Devils have one of the greatest incoming group of freshmen in program history. People expect big things out of coach Mike Krzyzewski and Co. in 2017-18.

In fact, you can ask anybody about the expectations for Coach K and Co. in 2017-18, and you know what they would tell you? “We expect big things out of Coach K and Co. in 2017-18!” Said anybody.

Topical, yet scary jokes to the wayside, this is a similar song and dance. It is now just enhanced this time around, as the dramatics of Marvin Bagley III announcing on SportCenter that he would be taking his talents to Durham is next-level … well, to be honest, I’m not too sure.

As a person who often traffics in the “give college basketball more exposure” racket, I would be lying if a part of this Internet Scribbler didn’t admit he feels the icks whenever a teenager — whether he wants to be there or not — is put in front of a camera so the world can get extra fanboy on a Monday night.

Exploitation? Maybe. But that’s a different discussion for another time.

For members of the human species, everything is perfectly set up for a realm in which we should all be happy as consumers of unpaid laborers trotting about collegiate hardwoods for our entertainment. Yes, even UCLA and USC fans.

Missing out on Bagley for those programs is obviously a big hit. But what brings the greater potential for maximum entertainment — bringing in another big-time recruit to an already great roster (which both USC and UCLA have) or having to see what will be an insanely hyped Duke team crumble?

What do I mean by crumble? Well, my friend, I am glad you asked.

Remember the last “best incoming group of freshmen in Duke history” narrative? It feels like it just happened last season. There’s probably a reason for that.

Oh, that’s right, because it was just last season.

Duke eventually righted its ship, but that was only after all non-Dick Vitale clones (I kid, with love) were able to soak in all the early season failures. From Grayson Allen tripping folk to Coach K taking medical leave to the objective bad losses earlier in the 2016-17 season, fans were able to have fun and that anti-Duke sentiment/fun was amplified because of those wild preseason expectations.

And. Here. We. Are. Again.

To be Camp Crystal Lake clear: Bagley is an enormous get for the Blue Devils. Like every other sane college basketball scribe, I too would slot Duke as the top team in the nation heading into the season. At the very same time, I remember that preseason rankings should be taken with a grain of salt and that a level of caution should meet this version of our much ballyhooed friends from Tobacco Road.

The same issues that plagued the last greatest recruiting class in Duke history might be a similar issue for this one. An abundance of freshmen automatically equates to inexperience and a need for chemistry building — both of which take time to come to fruition. Another important thing that can’t be forgotten is that Coach K’s bench isn’t projected to be as deep as the ocean floor, either.

Does that mean failure awaits? Nope. Not for certain, at least. It does mean this crazily hyped team — and mark my words, there will be hyperbole to follow Duke heading into the season — isn’t exactly the 1992 Dream Team. It has flaws, will have flaws, and while a bunch of games played together will fix an abundance of them, no team full of teenagers can be perfect.

Seriously. It is one of the greatest tricks us (evil?) prognosticators do this time of the year. We see what appears to be an absolutely loaded Duke roster and claim them Final Four-worthy well before a ball has ever been bounced by a kid who is doing so without being compensated via a salary or hourly wages.

What none of us hucksters do during this, though, is acknowledge the fatal flaw each and every single Division I program in the country has. That, you know, teenagers can’t be trusted to be consistent with anything other than being inconsistent.

That includes teenagers who we otherwise consider prodigies and the top 1 percent of their craft at the level they’re applying it.


While my children are not yet teenagers, I was one once. So were you (unless you’re not there yet). Remember us back at 18 or 19? Outside of us all being devilishly handsome/beautiful and more charming than Alyssa Milano during a TNT lazy-marathon, we were a bunch of wild wackos who didn’t exactly live up to the lower of low expectations our parents, teachers, etc., put on us.

Point being: Duke SHOULD be great. The Blue Devils were projected to be that even without Bagley. But that’s all projections and ideas of a team we have yet to see. Furthermore, as people in the Duke bubble have every right to lose their minds by way of unadulterated joy, people outside of it should as well, just for different and less altruistic reasons.

Duke fans, you got your other (other … other) prized freshman. The glass is more than half full for you entitled privileged (I KID) awesome fans.

Everyone else, you get to root against a Duke roster that can almost only fail, as it is Final Four (or deeper) or bust for the Blue Devils.

Everyone wins. Yay!

Joseph has been covering basketball for nearly a decade. He is the host of the Relatively Speaking Podcast and a columnist for FanRag Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

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