Jon Scheyer like’s Duke’s direction in post-Coach K era

Duke coach Jon Scheyer and point guard Jeremy Roach hung on to each other a few seconds longer while embracing on the sideline when it was clear the Blue Devils were going to fall short of the Final Four.

Mike Krzyzewski’s replacement is two years into a job with the loftiest of expectations, waiting for his first trip to college basketball’s biggest stage, where Duke has been 17 times.

For now, Scheyer is thinking about Roach and the teammates who went two rounds deeper than their coach’s debut season before a 76-64 Elite Eight loss to Atlantic Coast Conference rival North Carolina State in the South Region on Sunday.

“I don’t shy away from our expectations or what we want to do, but for me, that’s not the way I’m thinking at all,” Scheyer said. “I’m just hurting for these guys right now.”

The Blue Devils (27-9) led 27-21 after a poor-shooting first half for both teams, and they never could get their offensive game going while the Wolfpack heated up after halftime.

The second loss to N.C. State in 17 days was the third time in the past five trips to March Madness that Duke has lost a regional final.

The one Final Four appearance in that span was Krzyzewski’s final season, when the Blue Devils lost to rival North Carolina in the national semifinals.

Duke was a No. 5 seed last season, losing to Tennessee in the second round. The Blue Devils lost as the fourth seed to No. 11 seed N.C. State, which has won nine consecutive games going back to the ACC Tournament.

“I’ve always used the motivation in my time at Duke from the things that happened,” said Scheyer, a player from 2007-10. “Some of the most heartbreaking moments in my career have happened at Duke. We didn’t go to a Sweet 16 until my junior year. We didn’t go to a Final Four and national championship until my senior year.”

Duke missed the tournament when Roach was a freshman, the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 season. His Final Four run came as a sophomore before Roach became one of the leaders during the transition from Krzyzewski to Scheyer.

Now the burden of reaching an 18th Final Four will fall to Roach’s younger teammates who decide to return.

“The program is right where it left off,” Roach said after scoring 13 points, while freshman Jared McCain led the Blue Devils with 32. “People don’t know how hard his job is that you are taking over after the GOAT. That’s not easy work. Just give credit to him. He is always instilling confidence in us every day.”

After two years, Scheyer isn’t even close to the longest spell between trips to the Final Four under Krzyzewski, who won five national championships. The 36-year-old knows what falling short means.

“Culture is the hardest thing to have and to build, and you’re doing it now with — we did this with a fresh group,” Scheyer said. “We’ll have to regroup and figure out who you have coming back and coming in and all that stuff, but for me, I couldn’t be more confident in where this thing is heading and what we’re doing.”

In the era of the transfer portal, Duke didn’t have any transfers as significant contributors.

Scheyer wasn’t ready to address whether that might change, but guard Tyrese Proctor and 7-foot center Kyle Filipowski are sophomores who would be third-year players helping lead the way, along with McCain if the Californian decides to return.

“I mean, obviously you’ve seen the growth from last year to this year,” Filipowski said. “And I think it’s safe to say that Duke’s not going anywhere.”

Scheyer shares that view.

“Where is our program at?” Scheyer asked. “I think our program couldn’t be in a stronger place. We’re just 20 minutes away from going to a Final Four in our second year.”

Reporting by The Associated Press.



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