I still think we are in pretty good shape going forward, if for no other reason we don't have to play any more games in Cameron sad to say!
I almost wonder if Dawkins' disappearance has had something to do with it - he didn't put up impressive rebounding numbers when he was playing 30+ mpg in that early stretch, but it probably helped to have a built, 6'4 leaper bodying up the SF and Rivers on the SG rather than Rivers on the SF and a slight 6'1 Curry on the SG.
During the early part of the game, the Heels scored on every possession. Frankly, I think our team did feel "overwhelmed" and that contributed to our bad stretch of shooting.
Somehow this conversation about this game makes me think of many conversations during the football season. Key words seem to be precise execution, focused play, extremely talented, rushed attempts to score, defense overwhelmed.......
Some things can't be forced or taught..... maturing is one of those. Self confidence seems to be a fragile and elusive quality, especially when its most needed.
Coach K has spoken often of how each team makes its own journey. This team is still developing. That continuing development may be disappointing this season, but next year we may see some significant results.
As for Alex, I also remember the comments about how well he was doing in practice--but the preseason game he played in was a bit of a different story, IIRC. And ultimately, it seemed the redshirt was something he was thinking about from the beginning (because he thought he could learn more by coming to Duke than by staying in high school) and something he wanted, or at least supported, after the concussion set back his progress. If that is right, then I think the fact that the coaching staff did not push him to come back simply because he is taller and might help fill an immediate need is entirely to the program's credit--putting the long-term best interests of the player ahead of short-term considerations.
It's hard for me to imagine he would have gotten much playing time if he hadn't taken the redshirt. Where would his minutes have come from? Andre's? Mason or Ryan's? As others have stated, Gbinije isn't getting much floor time at all, and I think most people view Alex's role as somewhat similar to G's, though they are of course different players. If anything, G is more of a defensive player and Alex more offensive, and defense is what we're lacking.
The most popular player on any team is always the guy on the bench. Since he's not on the floor, he hasn't made any mistakes, so you can only presume he's better than the guy who's actually playing. Apparently this is doubly true for a guy who's being redshirted.
I seem to recall that he reclassified because he thought a redshirt year at Duke would be better than anther year on a HS team. He never thought to play college hoops this season.
Yeah, it makes sense to me that the redshirt was more Alex's (and his family's) decision than Duke's. Firstly, Duke doesn't redshirt unless it's a completely obvious situation (Marshall Plumlee), and secondly, Duke loves Alex's game. He started in China and probably would've helped fill a glaring need for this team.
But, in the end, this board is doing a lot of the typical "fan logic" after a loss where, because X Y and Z didn't occur during the loss, if we had just done X Y and Z, we would've won. Sometimes outcomes happen that you can't do much about. UNC has 4 players better than our best player. If Austin were a sophomore, UNC would have 4 out of 5 instead. You can only do so much against that.
We had the roster for a perimeter rotation that could have included two athletic 6'6-6'8 wings and a lightning quick 6'4 star who will be an NBA PG (and has defended PGs very well), along with our two sweet-shooting 2-guards and a solid backup PG in Thornton. One of those guys probably gets left out of the 10+ MPG rotation, but it's not like we didn't have the horses to build a long, athletic defensive core and grow from there. I know there are plenty of valid arguments against this strategy, and it's probably correct to say "Player X just didn't perform in practice," but IMO, sometimes you have to focus on developing certain players from a needs standpoint instead of relying on the merit system. For example, if K had made it his top priority to push and develop one of our freshman wings into an effective rotation player, I think he could have done it, personally.
I realize there are plenty of valid arguments against this, but that's just the style of basketball I'm prone to... probably from growing up with the earlier K Duke teams, honestly. It seems a little like the "If you can't play D, you won't play" mantra has sort faded to "If you can't shoot, you won't play" as priority 1-A, which I don't like. But, you take the good with the bad I suppose.
I realize this doesn't answer the point you make about choosing an overall identity of being a shooting team, and particularly a 3-shooting team, instead of developing longer wings--that does seem to be a choice the coaching staff made with this team and it's perfectly fair to question it (though it's also impossible to know, without being an insider, whether it was the best choice or not). But this last statement seems too strong to me.
We would be substantially reducing the minutes of:
A junior Seth Curry, who we encouraged to transfer into Duke, has worked his tail off and is a very productive all around player. He is also someone that went through a shooting slump and has clearly broken out.
A junior Andre Dawkins, who many already think get too few minutes to get on a roll, was a life-long Dukie and has one of the sweetest jumpers in all the land. Someone who could breakout on a more consistent basis at any time.
A sophomore Tyler Thornton who K says is the best defender, leader, and toughest player on the team, who is clearly improving as a shooter as the season progresses and is less foul prone than he was even 10 games ago.
All of these examples point to the fact that players improve with PT, which is what your are saying, but sitting these guys and playing 2 freshmen who are worse in practice and less schooled in team defense, in front of Seth, Andre, and Tyler would send what message? Players are not just chess pieces, K seems finely tuned to the psychology of team and player, and a change like this would surely affect the teams psyche.
If I were one of those three veterans, I would then certainly consider a transfer If I am more experienced and practice better and harder and get less PT!! It's easy when a veteran sees a guy like Austin play in front of them. He is so supremely talented, and appears to have a will that would carry over to practice/pickup/backyard ball whatever, that effort and ability would justify the greater role. But when all else is even, or more likely in this case, when the veterans are better in practice, what then?
To build a team, roles have to be given fairly, and the unusual makeup of this team, with a quintet of good but short guards, with more experience and/or talent than the 2 wings on the roster make the balancing act very difficult. For this reason I am very glad that circumstances drove Alex to red-shirt. If he had received limited minutes along with Mike, I can't imagine the lunacy on these boards.
I, for one, think this issue will be very much alive next year, when we add one more talented guard and retain all of our experienced and improving shorter players on the roster (with or without Austin). K is going to have a challenge with that balancing act as well.
Personally, I much prefer having Andre and Quinn getting rotation minutes instead of Alex and Michael. Would I have liked Andre and Alex even more? I don't know, but I doubt that combination would be significantly better than Andre and Quinn.
So basically, we'd have Rivers-Curry-[FR big wing/Dawkins] as our backcourt, with Thornton backing up the 1/2 and [big wing]/Dawkins splitting time depending on matchups and who steps up.
If it comes to Jan/Feb/March and they still don't bring enough to the table to earn PT, then obviously, you don't gift it to them. But it's not like many of our current guards are exactly defending at a high level, anyway, so it's not like their minutes should necessarily be insurmountable.