One of the most popular cliches in sports is the old “one game at a time” mantra, and it is one Matt Jones uses often.
But even he acknowledged after Saturday’s win against N.C. State that he knew Duke’s upcoming schedule for the next two weeks: Louisville, Virginia, at North Carolina and at Louisville.
“Yeah. You’re human,” Jones said. “You don’t want to look ahead, but you look ahead. We’ve just got to continue to protect home court. And then just take it one game at a time, one day at a time.”
Ignoring the cliche at the end, Jones has a good point. If the Blue Devils (17-6, 6-4 ACC) can hold serve and win their home games, they will finish no worse than 11-7 in the ACC, which would put them safely in the NCAA tournament. That’s far from a given, though, with home games against the Cardinals, Cavaliers and Tar Heels still to come. Statistician Ken Pomeroy does predict that Duke will win the rest of its home games, though not by much. His algorithms give the Blue Devils a 58 percent chance to beat Louisville, 52 percent chance to beat Virginia and a 56 percent chance to beat North Carolina in the final game of the regular season.
As it stands now, though, Duke has four away wins against two home losses, so the Blue Devils do have a small cushion against two potential home losses. Even a Duke team with a 9-9 conference record should be in the NCAA field, thanks to strong nonconference wins against Indiana, VCU and Georgetown.
The Blue Devils’ confidence is high after taking care of business last week with wins at Georgia Tech and against the Wolfpack on Saturday. And this is the third and final two-games-in-three-days stretch for Duke, and that also means another nice long break after Monday’s game against the Cardinals. The Cavaliers don’t come to town until Saturday.
The Blue Devils, with their six-man rotation, have gone 0-2 in the second game off of short rest, losing to Syracuse and at Miami. Amile Jefferson is still out with his broken foot, so it will be the same group trying for a different result this time against Louisville.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski detailed the plan for preparing for the Cardinals in his postgame news conference on Saturday.
“They’re in a recovery mode right now with the tub, recovery drinks,” Krzyzewski said. “Get a good meal, early sleep, come in late tomorrow morning, no contact. Give them feedback, put our scouting report in for Louisville, come back tomorrow night, review it. They have a big class day on Monday, and we won’t be able to see them until 3 o’clock on Monday. So we have to get everything in in those two sessions and make sure that we’re not giving them too much.”
There isn’t enough time to worry about anything other than the Cardinals, setting the Blue Devils up to follow the old cliche perfectly.