Why the loss to Miami is a bad sign for Duke basketball’s possible NCAA Tournament run

Duke basketball’s loss to Miami on Monday was more than the result of an emotional hangover.

However, there were some noticeable excuses to be made:

It had only been 48 hours since the most important, or at least most significant win of the season. The Blue Devils had exorcised demons on Saturday with a 63-57 win over North Carolina. So, it came as no surprise that after what was sure to be a late night of celebration, no practice and a matchup against a top-20 team that had not lost at home, Duke got off to a slow start against the No. 17 Hurricanes.

But excuses get old, and the Blue Devils got whupped. The 81-59 loss was a self-implosion that led to 21 turnovers which resulted in a poor shooting night, particularly from the 3-point line. Duke entered the game as the best offensive rebounding team in the ACC but lost the battle on the offensive glass to the undersized Hurricanes, 16-12. Miami finished with 24 second chance points to Duke’s nine.

“It’s tough. It’s not easy. But it’s what you have to do. And at the end of the day, they (Miami) played Saturday too," Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. "And so, there’s no excuses. That’s part of playing in the ACC. That’s part of playing big-time college basketball."

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As a one-off? Sure, this loss was no huge deal. Even if it was particularly painful to watch. Duke (17-7, 8-5 ACC) is still only two games behind Clemson for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with seven games remaining, including Saturday’s clash against No. 8 Virginia. The Blue Devils will have ample time to prepare before facing the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, and it looks like they’ll have freshman Dariq Whitehead back in the lineup.

But what is truly worrisome, and what time may not be able to fix, is what this loss continued to expose: an inability to play good basketball on a short turnaround.

The last time the schedule called for Duke to play on a Monday after playing two days earlier, Virginia Tech knocked off the Blue Devils, 78-75, in Blacksburg. After beating Pittsburgh 77-79 at home on Jan. 11, Duke suffered a 72-64 loss to Clemson three days later. The same thing almost happened after an 84-60 loss to NC State on Jan. 4. The Blue Devils just survived a 65-64 road win over lowly Boston College on Jan. 7. The loss to Miami moves Duke to 2-5 on the road this season.

Road woes aside, it’s a bad sign for the upcoming ACC and NCAA Tournament. Teams must be able to adapt quickly without losing a step. Yes, traveling won’t be as big of a factor, but Duke has yet to look comfortable outside the confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

There will be one day between the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the same for the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8. The Final Four, where Duke hopes to be again for the second straight time, takes place on April 1 with the national championship on April 3.

There’s even less time between games at the ACC Tournament.

"It’s part of growing up and learning how to prepare the same way – no matter who you’re playing, no matter where the game is at," Scheyer said. "And that’s what this game was all about. It wasn’t about as much about executing. To me, it was about the focus, the fight, the energy. To come out against a really good team, we have two road games this week against two of the best teams in our league. It’s a great opportunity. But you have to come out at the same level no matter where you are.”

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Why Miami loss could hurt Duke basketball in the NCAA Tournament