February 23, 2022 

At Duke, postseason chances aren’t the only unclear thing

Will Duke make the NCAA tournament? Which seniors are returning for a fifth year? And what's up with Nyah Green?

DURHAM, N.C. — Nyah Green last played in a game for the Duke Blue Devils on Jan. 23, where she logged a season-high 22 minutes in a home win over Virginia, tallying eight points and three rebounds.

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Since then, the former High School All-American hasn’t seen the floor for Duke. She was held out of Duke’s Jan. 27 game – a loss at home to North Carolina – for “a violation of team standards,” according to a spokesperson for the team.

When asked about Green’s status on Wednesday, Duke coach Kara Lawson said: “She’s just taking time away – personal time away.”

Green was the first player Lawson landed out of the transfer portal last season. A 6’1 guard from Allen, Texas, she was the 23rd-best recruit in the 2019 class, according to ESPN. Green redshirted as a true freshman at Louisville in the 2019-20 season, then left after five games into the 2020-21 campaign. Green committed to Duke on New Year’s Day 2021, just a few days after the Blue Devils postponed their season due to COVID-19.

Since arriving at Duke, Green has only seen action in eight games.

Beginning with that loss to North Carolina, the Blue Devils have been in a slump in the last month and are on their way to playing themselves out of the NCAA Tournament. Duke has lost six of its last nine games and stopped receiving votes in the AP Top 25 Poll two weeks ago. The Blue Devils are 43rd in NET and 48th in Her Hoops Stats ratings. In the latest Bracketology published at ESPN, Charlie Creme gave Duke a generous projection as an 11th seed, among the last four byes.

With two regular-season games and the ACC Tournament remaining, the Blue Devils have work to do if they want to improve their postseason resume.

Asked by Em Adler on Wednesday, if Duke would accept a bid to the WNIT – should it not make the NCAA Tournament – Lawson said: “I haven’t thought about any of that stuff yet. We’re just focused on this week and what we’re trying to accomplish through the end of the ACC season. We still have an opportunity to finish .500 in the league, which I think is a really good accomplishment with how tough our league has been, and certainly the depth of our league this year. I think we do have the deepest league in the country when talk about teams that will play in the postseason.”

Duke’s Elizabeth Balogun plays against Iowa on Dec. 2, 2022, in Durham, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Also ambiguous at Duke is whether or not any of its eligible seniors will return for a fifth season. Duke’s senior night is Thursday against Boston College.

Among the players eligible for a fifth year are Miela Goodchild, Elizabeth Balogun, Imani Lewis and Onome Akinbode-James. Goodchild has the best three-point shooting mark on the team at 37.6%. And Akinbode-James leads the team in blocks with 27 and points per-scoring attempt with 1.14. Lewis has only played 83 minutes across ten games this season but is a former All-Big Ten selection. Balogun has started 22 of 26 games and is third on the team in minutes played.

“You’d have to talk to them about what they’re doing and their plans. That’s not something I’m going to disclose here,” Lawson said Wednesday. “I’m really grateful to those players for buying into what our staff is teaching and buying into how we wanted to change some things….”

Back in October, a few of the players alluded to what their plans beyond this season might be.

Balogun: “My goal is to have a great season, and if I get drafted top 10, that would be great. But just have a great season and see from there. It’s not about, ‘Oh, I have to leave this year.’ Have a good season, then from there, I’ll make my decision.”

Lewis: “I would say no (to going pro after this season) only because I really want to get the most I can out of academics. So, the more degrees I can collect, the more certificates I can collect; I’m happy with all that stuff on my resume.”

If none of the seniors return, Duke could lose up to eight players in roster turnover this offseason. The Blue Devils do have a pair of top 40 recruits incoming with Ashlon Jackson and Shay Bollin.

Written by Mitchell Northam

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