Skip to content

Time to take Duke seriously as a Final Four contender

Feb 24, 2012, 12:56 AM EST

image001

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.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Latest Posts
  1. Late Night Snacks: Iowa State tops Texas in top-25 Big 12 battle; North Carolina beats Syracuse

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:45 PM EST

    Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Marcus Paige AP

    North Carolina and Iowa State earned conference home wins on Monday night.

  2. No. 15 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 19 Texas

    Jan 26, 2015, 11:22 PM EST

    Isaiah Taylor, Monte Morris AP

    Iowa State bounced back from a loss against Texas Tech with a big home win over Texas.

  3. Ineligible UCLA freshman forward now allowed to practice with the team

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:00 PM EST

    FIBA FIBA

    UCLA should get a boost in practice with the addition of a four-star freshman forward to its roster.

  4. BYU starting forward could be held out for the rest of 2014-15 season

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 PM EST

    Nate Austin AP

    BYU might be without a key frontcourt piece for the rest of the season.

  5. Report: Wake Forest transfer finds a new spot in the CAA

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:00 PM EST

    Wake Forest Demon Deacons v Arkansas Razorbacks Getty Images

    The son of a former NBA veteran is moving on to a CAA program from Wake Forest.

  6. Washington kicks talented shot blocking big man off the team

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:54 PM EST

    Robert Upshaw (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Washington loses one of the most talented shot blockers in the nation.

  7. Winter Storms postponing a few college basketball games (UPDATED)

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:16 PM EST

    Ed Cooley (AP Photo) AP

    DePaul may have to reschedule their trip to Providence.

  8. Pregame Shootaround: A top-25 Big 12 clash highlights a slow Monday night

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwrjywuxywyyywu3mjy5mddjotbkn2i1nzqynjq3zdhk AP

    Not a lot going on Monday night, but still some great games to check out.

  9. Maryland gets a commitment from top-150 point guard in 2016 class

    Jan 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    Mark Turgeon AP

    Maryland grabs an impact point guard in the 2016 class.

  10. Indiana’s Robert Johnson injured, cheerleaders’ folders to blame?

    Jan 26, 2015, 3:52 PM EST

    Maryland v Indiana Getty Images

    Johnson landed awkwardly against Ohio State and may have to miss some time.

  11. Videos of all the wild finishes from an insane weekend in college hoops

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:49 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    A recap of the nine craziest finishes from your college hoops weekend.

  12. Wichita State guard Conner Frankamp arrested on Saturday night

    Jan 26, 2015, 10:28 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Frankamp spent a little more than a year at Kansas before transferring.

  13. Weekly Awards: D’Angelo Russell’s ascension, Kansas takes the next step

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    D'Angelo Russell (AP Photo) D'Angelo Russell (AP Photo)

    The best players and most impressive teams from the last week of college hoops.

  14. College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

    Jan 26, 2015, 6:54 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    We have a new member in our Top Ten.

  15. Dez Wells’ game-winner caps wild sequence in No. 13 Maryland’s win over Northwestern (VIDEO)

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:35 PM EST

    Dez Wells AP

    Northwestern has lost its last three games by a total of five points.

  16. Four-star 2016 big man verbally commits to Arizona State

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:36 PM EST

    Herb Sendek, Jonathan Gilling Herb Sendek, Jonathan Gilling

    Lucas Siewert joins small forward Brendan Bailey as Arizona State’s second four-star verbal commitment in the 2016 class.

  17. Better shot selection, distribution helps No. 10 Louisville take care of Pittsburgh

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Louisville v Pittsburgh Getty Images

    Eight days after attempting 25 three-pointers in their loss to No. 5 Duke, the Cardinals attempted just 12 and scored 40 points in the paint against Pittsburgh.

  18. Three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining completes second-half rally for No. 20 Northern Iowa (VIDEO)

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:24 PM EST

    Northern Iowa v Iowa Northern Iowa v Iowa

    UNI erased a 12-point second half deficit to win at Illinois State, and they remain a game behind No. 14 Wichita State in the Missouri Valley standings.

  19. Chest pains experienced Saturday lead to USF forward missing Sunday’s game

    Jan 25, 2015, 5:38 PM EST

    Chris Perry Chris Perry

    Chris Perry leads the Bulls in rebounding, and chest pains suffered during the team’s workout Saturday resulted in his having to be hospitalized.