Lessons from the Duke Blue Devils on bench strength.

By Sarah Liverance 

When the chips are down, who you gonna call?

The chips started dropping even before the tip-off of Monday night’s NCAA final game between Duke and Wisconsin. All four CBS expert studio commentators called Wisconsin to win it. Those in attendance in Indianapolis were decidedly red with Wisconsin enthusiasm. And we heard lots about how the Wisconsin Badgers were bigger, more experienced and at the top of their game after their remarkable semi-final takedown of previously undefeated Kentucky.

Once the game actually started, more chips fell. Duke’s big man, the highly touted Jahil Okafor got into early foul trouble and sat on the bench for a good portion of the game. Same goes for another big scorer, Justise Winslow. At one point early in the second half, Duke trailed by 9. Even Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski admitted after the game, “We were dead in the water”.

Then Duke’s little known freshman, Grayson Allen burst onto the court. Words like “fierce” and “fearless” don’t quite describe the energy and determination he injected. That was the turning point after which lots went right for Duke (and wrong for Wisconsin). It got me to thinking…in business and in life, how often does this happen? Things don’t go quite as planned – your star performers are down and out for whatever reason.

Moral of this March Madness story is: We all need bench strength we can count on. May we never underestimate the value of the Grayson Allens of this world.