The first thing that comes to mind regarding serial tripper Grayson Allen is: What makes a person keep doing this? The second, after Duke announced that Coach Mike Krzyzewski had suspended Allen indefinitely following his egregious trip of an Elon (Elon?) player Wednesday night, is: Would a team-imposed suspension 10 months ago have stopped Allen’s reckless on-court behavior?

And in what might seem ancillary but is far from so for those who care about college basketball: Does anyone remember that Louisville beat Kentucky on Wednesday night?

That tense and taut in-state affair – which should have put a focus on college basketball that the sport yearns for in every month not named March – was kicked to the side by Allen’s right foot, which intentionally and inexplicably found the back side of the left leg of Elon guard Steven Santa Ana in what became a 72-61 victory for the heavily favored Blue Devils.

Few situations offer Krzyzewski, his sport’s career leader in coaching victories, no choice. Suspending Allen was one of them. “What Grayson did was unacceptable,” he said, which is akin to pointing out the sun rises in the east.

So before we trip over ourselves (sorry) in lauding Krzyzewski for taking this step, it’s worth pointing out that he should have taken it Feb. 26. That’s the day after Allen tripped Xavier Rathan-Mayes of Florida State, which came all of 17 days after he tripped Ray Spalding of Louisville.

Wednesday’s cheap shot, which came after Santa Ana beat Allen with a spin move along the baseline, had the sport focused not just on Allen, who’s moving his way up the seeding of the “Most Hated Duke Player Ever” bracket, but on how Krzyzewski would handle him.

“No more gifts,” Jay Williams said on ESPN. “We’re done with that. He deserves to sit.”

That there is Duke-on-Duke crime, because Williams played for Krzyzewski’s 2001 national champs. And it’s a measure of how obvious Krzyzewski’s choice was Wednesday.

“As a program, we needed to take further steps regarding his actions that do not meet the standards of Duke Basketball,” Krzyzewski said in a statement.

Have the standards of Duke basketball changed since February? Because that’s when Allen tumbled to the floor after a drive, then – while prone – swung out his right leg to trip Spalding, who was trying to push Louisville into a fast break at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium. That’s also when Allen slyly stuck his left leg out behind him to trip Rathan-Mayes, who was innocently headed upcourt in the waning seconds of a Duke win at Cameron.

The day after the Florida State incident, when Allen officially became a repeat offender, Duke was all but silent on the matter, saying the incident had been “handled internally.” That turned over the ball to the Atlantic Coast Conference, which decided Allen deserved a “reprimand” – whatever that is – but no suspension.

“The first time, you call the kid in and say, ‘Wha’s wrong with you?’ ” said former Maryland coach Gary Williams who, like Krzyzewski, is a Hall of Famer. “If you take the temperature around the game, the second time, you suspend him.”

Krzyzewski didn’t. And now, another season, and a new version of the same cheap shot from Allen.

Yes, Allen was assessed a technical foul after he kicked Santa Ana. Yes, he was despondent on the bench and contrite in the locker room. Yes, Krzyzewski arranged for a meeting, and an apology, with Allen, Santa Ana and Elon Coach Matt Matheny. And now comes the suspension.

But it leaves people wondering: What makes a player as good as Allen continue to do that?

“Here’s the thing: Part of growing up when I grew up is you had to prove yourselves on the playgrounds,” Williams said. “If you ever tried to trip somebody like that, you would have to fight your way off the court. Kids today, they don’t play outside. Everything’s controlled. You kind of miss disciplining yourself as you grow up as a player.

“Allen’s a great competitor. He really competes on the court. Every coach would like to coach players that have the competitive spirit that a guy like Allen has. But at the same time, you can’t do that. Where does that come from?”

This matter isn’t over, for two reasons. One, we don’t know how long Allen will sit out. Duke’s next game is its conference opener Dec. 31 at Virginia Tech. The next two are at home against beatable ACC opponents, Georgia Tech and Boston College.

The test will be after that: Will Krzyzewski hold Allen out of the Jan. 10 matchup at Florida State, which is 12-1? What about the next game, at Louisville, which showed its potential by beating Kentucky? That’s what Williams, Krzyzewski’s former guard, called for on ESPN: Five games, which would include the Cardinals.

But whenever the suspension ends, the matter won’t be over because Allen will be publicly monitored like few players in his sport have been. This entire incident is seen through the prism of Duke’s public persona, which is a generation in the making and predates Allen’s birth.

The villains are a long line of Duke players – starting probably with Christian Laettner in the early 1990s but extending to Steve Wojciechowski and Greg Paulus and J.J. Redick, and so many others. For so many college basketball fans, Krzyzewski provides the connective tissue, so they notice when he blows off most of the handshake line (as he did last season following a loss to Syracuse) or when he lectures an opponent on sportsmanship (as he did with Dillon Brooks of Oregon following the Blue Devils’ exit from the NCAA tournament in March).

So before conference play starts, we have the themes of the season clearly defined: How long will Krzyzewski punish Allen? How will Allen conduct himself when he returns, and absorbs the unbridled scorn of every opposing crowd? And will villainous Duke become healthy and whole enough for a run at what would be Krzyzewski’s sixth national title.

Too bad. Because in the days before Christmas the theme should be: Wasn’t that Louisville-Kentucky game great?


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