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As bizarre as it might have seemed at various points in the season, the Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team has moved on without Coach K. While there were some bumps in the road, Jon Scheyer’s squad survived the season without falling off a cliff. Sure, there was a spell of the season outside of the top-25, but the Blue Devils bounced back, won the ACC Tournament, and will enter the NCAA Tournament in decent, if unremarkable, position.

And while Krzyzewski has done a decent job of keeping his distance — it would have been easy to add pressure on his successor by appearing in Cameron Indoor Stadium every night — he did recently speak out about this current Duke team. Unsurprisingly, he’s pretty bullish on the squad’s chances in March.

Coach K believes Duke has a chance to win an NCAA title this season

Last year, Duke came painfully close to sending Mike Krzyzewski off with a fairy-tale NCAA title. While that wasn’t meant to be, the legendary coach believes that the program could make it to the top of the mountain this season.

“I think we’re good,” Coach K explained in a SiriusXM clip shared by the Blue Devils’ Twitter account. “I think we have a chance to win it all.”

And, as you might expect, the retired bench boss wasn’t just making a bold claim for the sake of it. When asked why the team was playing better down the stretch, he had an insightful answer ready to go.

“You know, a big thing, I think, is that with the injuries, and they’re young, and so, [Dereck] Lively’s injury, Dariq Whitehead’s injury, they weren’t able to mesh until, especially, when Lively came back,” Coach K opined. “And that gave [Kyle] Filipowski and [Mark] Mitchell, the other freshmen … And the status of Procter; Tyrese didn’t get here until September. So they matured mid-season, and that also mirrored the emergence of Jeremy Roach.”

When the chips are down, Coach K believes that developing bond could pay dividends, provided they keep their eyes on the big prize.

“They’re a together group,” he added. “I think they’re getting better. They have to be careful that the ACC Championship, that’s a springboard. It’s not, you know, we’re gonna put a banner up for that. Now, let’s go chase another banner.”

Krzyzewski also had praise for Jon Scheyer in his first year on the job

There’s a cliche in sports that you never want to be the one to directly replace a legend. That immediate successor has a tendency to struggle under the weight of change and expectation; it’s much safer to follow that immediate replacement.

Despite it looking like his first season at the helm was heading south, Jon Scheyer righted the ship. Not only did he claim an ACC Tournament crown and lead his team into the Big Dance, but he earned a stamp of approval from his former boss.

“Jon and I have talked about not using the word ‘follow’ because he’s not following anyone,” Coach K said. “He’s setting his own course. And I think that’s how he’s done this year. You know, he was a national champion, 2,000 point scorer here. He’s won, as an assistant coach, a national championship, an ACC championship. But he was not the leader. When you’re the leader, and you go up on that stage, and you’re accepting that trophy, when he did that, I felt chills for him. Because there’s no feeling like that.”

As the conversation continued, Kryzyewski’s praise became more direct and effusive.

“I loved it,” the living legend continued. “He’s done a fantastic job. I think we’re good.”

While it’s perfectly fair to argue that Coach K is looking at his former program through rose (or blue) tinted glasses, college basketball fans all understand one universal truth: anything can happen in March. Who knows, maybe Jon Scheyer and this Blue Devils team are destined for greatness.


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