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Blue Devils on a rudderless ship

Duke Notebook

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In what was a tough week for Duke men’s basketball team, the Blue Devils lost two games and the team looks lost in a number of ways.

While falling to Top 15 teams on the road, like the Blue Devils did to No. 10 Florida State and No. 12 Louisville in a four-day stretch last week, isn’t a horrible indictment on the season as a whole. However, it’s the fact that the defeates came at a time when Duke needed to find an identity that has a black cloud lingering over the fanbase. Through all of the turmoil this year has brought to Durham, losing Amile Jefferson might be the hardest to overcome — especially going up against the size and length of FSU and Louisville in their home gyms.

STILL NOT COMPLETELY HEALTHY

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, who fell from No. 7 to No. 18 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25, they should be getting Jefferson back soon. In fact, Jefferson may be on the court this Saturday at home against Miami, but also head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who had back surgery Jan. 6, should be back courtside sooner than later. Coach K has been in practice helping to coach the team through this rough patch already, so its just a matter of him being healthy enough to be on the bench as to what’s holding him back from being present.

When Jefferson and Krzyzewski are both back, it’ll be the first time the entire roster has been healthy all season. Will that be enough for the team to find its groove? We’ll see, but having ESPN College Gameday in town for Saturday night’s game against Miami will not make the spotlight any less bright.

ALLEN STRUGGLING STILL

I wrote last week that junior Grayson Allen needed to be a captain again in spirit, even though he wasn’t in name.

While he did have an offensive outburst in the Louisville game, Allen wasn’t as much of leader as Duke needed. This team, right now, needs the Grayson Allen who shouted at his teammates and fired them up during the 2015 national championship game. They’re getting the guy who has been beaten down by controversies, media spotlight and boos from opposing fans.

STUDENT PROTEST?

ESPN will be in town for the entire day before the Duke-Miami game, broadcasting from Cameron Indoor Stadium starting at 11 a.m. Duke students, who are required to attend the early portion of College Gameday during tenting for the Duke-UNC game, are talking about having some form of protest during the televised event due to the network’s perceived over-the-top coverage of the Allen incidents this year, including his one-game suspension by Krzyzewski for tripping an Elon player in a game Dec. 21.

OUT OF THE TOP 25?

After falling all the way to 18th in the rankings, Duke could potentially fall out of the Top 25 with a loss to either Miami or NC State. Until last season, it had been nine years since Duke fell out of the Top 25. Before that? 1996. Duke hasn’t been out of the Top 25 in consecutive years since 1986. After Saturday’s game at home against Miami, the Blue Devils will host the Wolfpack on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

FIGHTING OFF THE BIG DOGS

Notre Dame is coming after Duke’s 2017 three-star running back verbal commit Deon Jackson, trying to flip him away from the Blue Devils with just over two weeks remaining until National Signing Day on Feb. 1. While the Fighting Irish have a lot to offer, Jackson and his mom are staying firm with their Duke commitment, for now. We’ll see what happens, but if Jackson takes a visit to South Bend next weekend, things could get hairy.

Adam Rowe covers Duke basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com. Check out more of his work at duke.247sports.com.

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