NEW YORK — If it’s possible to send shockwaves throughout the sport of college basketball by losing a November game, Duke did just that.
Because of who didn’t play.
The top-ranked Blue Devils came back from a double-digit deficit against one of the nation’s premier teams in Kansas and nearly won Tuesday night’s thriller — all without three potential first-round draft picks, who were sitting at the end of the bench in suits.The freshman trio — Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden — has not yet appeared in any of Duke’s games. Giles has been out since he had (his third) knee surgery back in September. Tatum has been out since he sprained his foot during a preseason practice. Marques Bolden has been out since he sustained a left lower leg injury in a later practice.This injury bug has left the Blue Devils with just a six-man rotation and a clear size disadvantage in the frontcourt. Throw in a tough, veteran Kansas team as an opponent and foul trouble that ended up costing Duke Amile Jefferson in the game’s final minutes, and it was, frankly, a surprise that Duke had enough in its tank to tie the game in the final minute at all.
Which is actually pretty terrifying for the rest of college basketball, if you think about it. Three ridiculously talented reinforcements are coming.
“I think we’re a good team — otherwise we’d get blown out of here tonight,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But we’re a limited team right now. We’re not who we imagined ourselves to be. But that’s not an excuse. That’s just the way it is. We’ll see what happens when we get guys back. I think these experiences are good.
“We didn’t lose because we were short-handed tonight. We lost because Kansas played better than us and (Frank) Mason is a big-time winner.”