CHAPEL HILL – Following Duke’s 81-67 loss to North Carolina on Saturday night, a reporter asked coach Mike Krzyzewski about his team’s confidence.
The Blue Devils had been ranked No. 1 in the nation a week earlier, but lost two of their last three games to close out the regular season.
“We’re 27-4,” Krzyzewski said in a defensive but somewhat humorous tone. “I would think we’re fairly confident. Does it look like we’re not confident?”
“Some games,” the reporter replied.
“Some games?” Krzyzewski said. “The 27? When we were not ranked No. 1?
“We’re a confident team. Just because you miss shots, it’s not about confidence. Sometimes you miss shots. If you’re not confident, you don’t take the shots. Confidence is not our problem. We’re OK.”
The Blue Devils have been derailed by missed shots, particularly 3-point shots for forwards Kyle Singler and Ryan Kelly.
Singler has been a good 3-point shooter for most of his career. But he has made just six of his last 33 3-point attempts. In the recent losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina, Singler was a combined 1-for-12 from 3-point range.
Kelly has been a good 3-point shooter at times for the Blue Devils. He made eight 3-pointers in a row against ACC opponents during one stretch. But he shot a combined 0-for-10 from 3-point range in the losses to Virginia Tech and North Carolina.
When Singler and Kelly are hitting from the perimeter, Duke can be as good as anyone in the nation. If Singler and Kelly are cold, Duke might have difficulty getting past the regional semifinals in the NCAA tournament.
Without a strong low-post scorer, the Blue Devils depend on 3-pointers to win when they play opponents with formidable big men.
“We have to hit threes,” Krzyzewski said. “Because they [the Tar Heels] are bigger than we are. You’re not going to score on them inside. So you’ve got to hit threes.”
But in order to hit threes, you have to be confident. So it makes sense that Krzyzewski would say he has a confident team.
His best strategy is to continue showing his players that he believes in them, in hopes that they will break out of their slump at the perfect time.
“Look, we’re not starting over or anything,” Krzyzewski said. “Our kids have had a [heck] of a season. I’m OK with my team.”