Duke Beat: Duke’s Slow Starts

This season Duke has typically gotten off to very slow starts in their games. They had another slow start this past Thursday night against Georgia Tech. No one has seemed to be able to pinpoint exactly why this continues to happen. Are they not prepared to start the game? Do they think they’re just going to blow every team out and shots will just instantly fall? Who knows.

One way to try and explain why this keeps happening to Duke is to compare it to NASCAR. Wait, exactly how does Duke basketball compare to a bunch of guys going around in circles? Hear me out.

If you’ve ever watched a NASCAR race, you have probably heard announcers mention how a car starts out slow, but gets better and comes to the driver the longer they have a green flag run. This is what I think is happening with Duke. They are like a race car. They want to get out and run and impose their will on the competition from the start. But they need time to figure out the track, or in this case the game.

In NASCAR, drivers are always looking for the best groove to run in so they can gain the most speed. In Duke’s case, they are having to figure out exactly the best way to exploit their opponent, whether it be having success down low or taking advantage of double teams to kick it out for the open three. Duke, like NASCAR drivers, also has to figure out how to stop their opponents defensively. In NASCAR it can be literally blocking a car from passing you or making adjustments on pit road such as taking two tires vs. four tires to try and get out ahead of the competition.

For Duke, halftime is like their pit stop. They go in and Coach K, playing the role of crew chief, makes the necessary adjustments or gives a much needed pep talk that helps Duke get out ahead of their competition in the second half. It’s why you see Duke come out of the half and go on runs such as the 19-4 run they went on against Georgia Tech.

There are going to be games where Duke’s slow start puts them too deep in the field to pull out a win. It can also hurt their chances to make a deep run in the tournament, because much like NASCAR’s Chase, one bad game/race can knock you out of contending for the championship.


Chris Summerville is originally from Indian Trail, NC and currently resides in Monroe, NC.  He has been a lifetime Duke fan and knows exactly what he was doing when Christian Laettner crushed the hopes and dreams (and Aminu Timberlakes intestines) of Kentucky fans.  Chris graduated from UNC Asheville in 2003 with a degree in Multimedia Arts & Sciences.  By day he is Creative Director for one of the major billiard companies in the US.  By night he prowls the interwebs as the Duke of Hoops.  Chris can often be found on Twitter arguing with UNC fans.

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