The watchword at Duke on Monday was "consistency," and no one -- not the players, not coach Mike Krzyzewski -- had an explanation why the Blue Devils have been so inconsistent this year. At least, they were consistent in that respect.
"I don't know, but we have to figure it out," Duke forward Mason Plumlee said, two days before Duke visits North Carolina in the first meeting between the teams.
"This is one of the most different teams I've had," Krzyzewski said. "Overall, they've done a good job, or we wouldn't be 19-4. But different guys have done well and we've done enough to win that many games. But I don't think anyone has had an exceptional year, or for the last month. Again, that doesn't mean they've been bad. That's not usually the case for our team. Usually, we have one or two guys who are all-ACC candidates."
There's no question Duke has players who are capable of playing at that level: Plumlee did it against Maryland. Andre Dawkins did it against Michigan State and Wake Forest. Austin Rivers did it against Miami. Seth Curry should probably do it more often, and Ryan Kelly presents significant matchup problems.
Yet none of them has said, "I'm the go-to guy. I want the ball in my hands right now," on a regular basis, although Rivers in recent days probably comes closest, and Krzyzewski said Plumlee has been Duke's most consistent player, particularly when it comes to rebounding.
"No question it's a different challenge," Krzyzewski said. "No question about that. Every coach would rather have two or three guys all the time, because then you can build better."
Perhaps the most baffling manifestation of Duke's inconsistency is at the defensive end, where defensive intensity has been a part of Duke's DNA for decades.
"It's something that we've shown flashes of being really good at," Kelly said. "I think it just comes down to being consistent, as individuals and as a team. We've improved in areas, and then not done as well in other areas. It has to be a true decision that we're going to be better defensively, and it has to be there every single day."
- Luke DeCock