Feb 24, 2012, 12:56 AM EST
All we’ve talked about all season long is No. 5 Duke’s flaws.
They don’t have a play-making point guard. They don’t have enough of an interior presence. They don’t defend. Austin Rivers will never fit into a team concept.
Its been incessant. And I’m not innocent.
And through all that negativity, the Blue Devils have just kept on winning basketball games. Barring a collapse down the stretch, Duke has an inside track at taking one of the two No. 1 seeds that won’t be going to Kentucky or Syracuse. It may not be that close, either. Seriously, take a look at who the Blue Devils have beaten this season outside of the ACC: No. 6 Michigan State, No. 4 Kansas, No. 11 Michigan, Washington, Colorado State, Davidson, Belmont, Penn, Tennessee. That’s an insanely good non-conference resume.
Their two non-conference losses? At No. 8 Ohio State in early November when the Buckeyes played one of their best games of the season and at Temple, who is as under the radar as any team in the country right now.
And thanks to an impressive, 74-66 win over No. 15 Florida State in Tallahassee — fitting revenge for the three that Michael Snaer hit to beat Duke at the buzzer in Cameron — Duke is tied with North Carolina for first place in the conference and hosts their battle on the final day of the regular season. There is a very real chance that a sweep of the Tar Heels can be added to that resume.
Even if the Tar Heels knock off Duke on March 3rd and even with the flaws that this group has, the Blue Devils have to be considered a threat to make the Final Four after tonight’s performance.
Playing without a point guard like a Phil Pressey, a jitterbug that can get into the paint at will and make any pass to any player at any given time, the Blue Devils still managed to manufacture open looks from three all night against one of the best defenses in the country. Duke went 13-28 from beyond the arc against Florida State, with Andre Dawkins (22 points and 6-9 from three) and Austin Rivers (20 points, 4-8 from three, four assists and four boards) leading the way.
I’ts also worth mentioning that the Blue Devils, who were overmatched inside before being forced to play small as the Plumlees dealt with foul trouble throughout the game, were able to hang with the Seminoles inside. Bernard James got his — 13 points, nine boards, and five blocks — and the Seminoles did grab 16 offensive rebounds, but those are the kind of numbers you expect from FSU.
The fact that Duke held their own with one of the biggest frontlines in the country despite getting just one point and five boards from Mason Plumlee in 17 minutes is a good sign.
We can break down all of the stats we can get our hands on and watch film of every single possession of Duke basketball this season, and while it all may tell us that Duke is an inherently flawed basketball team, there is something to be said for winning. I may be in the minority here, but I firmly believe in advanced statistics and new and improved metrics to evaluate basketball at the same time that I believe in players and teams being “winners” or “clutch”.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: winning is a skill. The confidence to execute in late-game situations and the mental capacity to perform under pressure is a trait that isn’t found in every player or team. Think about it like this: how many players that are good jump-shooters struggle from the free throw line? Its not always about technique. Confidence plays a role, too.
Its the same thing for executing under pressure.
They came back from 10 down in the final two minutes to beat North Carolina. They came back from 20 down in the final 11 minutes to beat NC State. They erased a 17 point deficit to force overtime in their loss to Miami. Most importantly, they are 24-4 on the season and 11-2 in ACC play.
While the reasons behind those big deficits are quite clear, you cannot talk about the Blue Devils without saying unequivocally that this group has put together as many impressive wins as anyone in the country.
And in a season where the field after the top two teams is about as easy to figure out as “Memento” on your first viewing after drinking a six-pack, we need to started talking about Duke as a legitimate Final Four contender.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:15 PM EST
No. 19 UConn has struggled to crack 70 points during a recent six-game stretch and it could lead to an early exit for the Huskies in the postseason.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:01 PM EST
The top seed in next week’s American Athletic Conference was determined by an old school method Saturday afternoon.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Cleanthony Early scored 20 points to lead No. 2 Wichita State to a 67-42 rout of Missouri State in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament. The Shockers improve to 33-0 on the season with the victory, one game away from heading into Selection Sunday with an unblemished record. They will play the winner of…
Mar 8, 2014, 5:06 PM EST
As Louisville sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell puts up huge numbers against great competition in the last few weeks are the Cardinals a threat to make a run at back-to-back national titles?
Mar 8, 2014, 4:14 PM EST
At this point, there should be no questioning whether or not Oklahoma State is back to being the team that they were back in December. If it wasn’t for a missed free throw from Phil Forte, an 88.9% free throw shooter, and a buzzer-beating three from Naz Long at the end of regulation, the Cowboys…
Mar 8, 2014, 3:34 PM EST
No. 8 Kansas fell on the road to West Virginia on Saturday, but the Jayhawks will take the loss knowing that the superstar version of Andrew Wiggins might have finally come to life.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:21 PM EST
Just how concerned should we be by Kentucky’s struggles over the last two weeks?
Mar 8, 2014, 2:53 PM EST
Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart has developed a reputation for flopping this season. Don’t, for a second, think that opposing student sections haven’t noticed.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:41 PM EST
No. 1 Florida spent Saturday showcasing just what makes them so dangerous heading into the NCAA tournament.
Mar 8, 2014, 2:36 PM EST
No. 20 Memphis is known for the play of its senior guards, but does their improving frontcourt give them a chance at a postseason run?
Mar 8, 2014, 12:16 PM EST
Get caught up on all of Saturday’s bubble action
Mar 8, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
As the regular season nears an end, Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch has a fantastic feature on Ohio State senior point guard Aaron Craft that you should definitely check out.
Mar 8, 2014, 10:40 AM EST
Conference tournament action heats up on Saturday as the Ohio Valley Conference’s title game takes place and 12 different leagues have tournament action. We preview the day’s action here.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Although conference tournaments are underway, there are still plenty of tremendous regular-season matchups on Saturday including No. 14 North Carolina at No. 4 Duke and a pair of top-25 matchups in the American.
Mar 8, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Jason Garrett and Tony Romo get some shots up at Cameron, and the quarterback can shoot.
Mar 8, 2014, 1:00 AM EST
A recap of Friday night’s action, including Harvard wrapping up the Ivy League crown
Mar 7, 2014, 10:22 PM EST
Siyani Chambers and company played much better in the rematch, beating Yale to earn a third consecutive NCAA tournament berth.
Mar 7, 2014, 9:38 PM EST
Meet Harvard, the first team to wrap up a spot in the 2014 NCAA tournament.
Mar 7, 2014, 7:15 PM EST
Harvard looks to wrap up its third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
Mar 7, 2014, 6:25 PM EST
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin met with the media to address the actions that led to his one-game suspension
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