Duke Basketball
Duke basketball blew out Gardner-Webb 92-52 in a game that will be glossed over because of what transpired off the court. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 4 vs Gardner-Webb

Duke basketball drubbed Gardner-Webb 92-52 in, arguably, their most complete game of the season, improving their record to 4-0. However, the outcome will likely be glossed over in the grand scope of current Duke hoops. It was a game mired in controversy, but not because of anything that happened on the court.

That contention surrounds early Tuesday reports of Duke basketball players Michael Savarino and Paolo Banchero receiving citations for DWI-related charges on Sunday in Orange County, North Carolina.

I covered all the information currently made public in the article linked above, so this review will afford me the opportunity to discuss the nature of these events, the suspension, or lack thereof, and the game itself.

What to make of a disappointing situation

Well, it is just that: disappointing. We need to be incredibly thankful that nothing beyond an arrest happened, because while that’s a terrible circumstance, the night truly could’ve ended so much worse.

It’s disappointing that a 20-year-old Savarino chose to hop in a car and drive while impaired. It’s disappointing that a 19-year-old Banchero not only chose to hop in the car with Savarino, but also didn’t take the keys from a friend and teammate who was impaired. However, hindsight is 20/20, both are teenagers and they made mistakes.

But it could have ended up so much worse. We could have had another Henry Ruggs-esque situation. We could have been mourning the loss of two Duke basketball players, in a season that was supposed to be full of joy and celebration in Coach K’s final season. We are lucky no physical harm resulted two days ago.

The suspension(s) or lack thereof

Well, as we know, Paolo did not serve, and will likely not serve, any sort of suspension. The Seattle native suited up against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, but we’ll get into his performance later.

The college basketball landscape may be frustrated that the potential No. 1 pick didn’t sit out this game – or more – but the precedent for internalized school investigations and suspensions surrounding DUIs and DWIs had already been set.

Mark Few and Jalen Wilson at Gonzaga and Kansas, respectively, were each suspended for drinking-related offences this offseason. Few, the head coach of the Bulldogs, was suspended one game for a September DUI where he registered a 0.12 BAC. Wilson, a redshirt sophomore for the Jayhawks, was suspended three games on suspicion of a DUI.

The comparison I made is one that myself and Karl Heiser have debated on our Jimmer Range podcast: should we hold 18-to-22-year-olds to a higher standard than the coaches tasked with leading and guiding them? There’s no easy answer, but ideally one would think that we as a society wouldn’t hold teenagers – alone for an extended period of time without the guidance of parents – to greater expectations than the men and women asked to replace their parents for those pivotal 1-4 years.

However, the law remains an entirely different matter. Both Savarino and Wilson were underage at the time of the incidents, while Few is long past providing an ID at bars.

Wilson is now 21 years old, but was 20 at the time of the arrest. Few is 58 years old. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, so it both does and doesn’t make sense regarding the length of each suspension. Savarino, as mentioned, is 20, so one would assume, based on prior events and the nature of his relationship to Coach K, that his punishment is more severe.

As for Banchero, he was released from the site after being cited for aiding and abetting a DWI – a charge in North Carolina defined as a person who did not prevent another individual who was impaired from driving. He will appear in court on Dec. 8, with his teammate appearing on Dec. 9.

Ultimately, Banchero wasn’t behind the wheel. It was his car and North Carolina’s aiding and abetting law could muddy the situation more. It also may not, and the case may be dismissed without incident. Regardless, people will still complain, say the suspension “wasn’t long enough,” but the sad reality is that we have a barometer for these kind of situations and the precedent has been set – if you want to blame anyone, blame college basketball’s darling: Gonzaga.

And I want to specify that I am in no way discounting the severity of a DUI or DWI. There is an apparent need for a more accountable and universal ruling or suspension regarding DUI-related offences at the collegiate level – athletes and coaches alike – because these insistences are happening at an all too common rate currently.

Savarino’s suspension is much harder to predict. Truthfully, I could see him suspended until December or even the end of the season. His relationship as grandson to the greatest coach ever in college hoops could see him lose his scholarship or see him kicked off the team. All we know right now is that the holidays in the Krzyzewski household will be an interesting situation.

The Game Itself

Duke Gardner Webb
Trevor Keels led the way for a Duke squad that had six double-digit scorers and totaled 92 points of offense. (Screenshot of box score via ESPN)

As already mentioned, this was arguably Duke’s most complete game this season. Sure, the Kentucky win was more impressive, but on Tuesday we saw six players, including all five starters, reach double-digit scoring on the night.

Freshman guard Trevor Keels led the way with 18 points on a stellar first half performance. The former Paul VI star was 6-9 from the field, and, more importantly, 4-6 from deep. He also added seven rebounds and four assists on just one turnover.

Sophomore center Mark Williams had his first good showing of the season. After struggling in the opening three games, he seemed like the player we expected him to be heading into the year. He was the benefactor of several lobs at the rim, but also did a good job in the high pick-and-roll in dragging opposing defenders into the paint and creating space for his guards. His six blocks are another sign of an expected return to his March form by the big man.

Senior co-captain Joey Baker picked up right where he left off in the Campbell game. In much less action, the senior tallied 12 points, including some solid drives to the rim – something we wouldn’t have seen a year or two ago. Again, the age old tale of his inconsistent three-point shooting is present, but he still gave good minutes on both ends of the floor. Also, he deserves a shoutout for making a diving, possession-saving play up 40 in the waning minutes of regulation – that’s a winning play in other games.

Fellow co-captain and junior wing Wendell Moore Jr. found his footing in the second half after a quiet opening half. The Charlotte, North Carolina native finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists on 6-9 shooting from the field and 2-3 from deep. Another good outing from Duke’s X-factor.

Onto Duke basketball’s No. 1 guy in Paolo Banchero. The uber-talented freshman wasn’t his usual self Tuesday night, but that likely has more to do with the uncertainty and attention off of the court than anything else. I fully expect Banchero to be back to full strength in the next couple of games before Gonzaga. Despite his struggles, he still had 10 points with eight rebounds to boot.

The last of the double-digit scorers, Jeremy Roach had another good night. The sophomore guard has kept up his good form and dropped 10 points. He also led the team with six assists and only two turnovers. Roach just seems more confident on the ball and even when shots aren’t falling from deep, he’s getting to the rim and scoring that way.

Finally, the last player of note is freshman wing A.J. Griffin who totaled 16 minutes of action and five points. Those numbers won’t blow anyone away, but it’s great progress for a guy who, just a month ago, was expected to be out with a knee injury until November. I’m excited to see how he fits into this team when 100% healthy.

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