Skip to content

Time to take Duke seriously as a Final Four contender

Feb 24, 2012, 12:56 AM EDT

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. Illinois declares home floor fit for play following flooding issue

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:53 PM EDT

    Twitter/IlliniHoops Twitter/IlliniHoops

    Quick action by construction workers ensured that it was declared ready for play two days after being flooded.

  2. Officiating controversy results in multiple suspensions

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT

    Chris Collins, Bo Boroski Chris Collins, Bo Boroski

    Some officials are in hot water after compromising a system used by 20 different Division I conferences.

  3. Canadian forward/center verbally commits to Saint Louis

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:58 PM EDT

    crews AP

    Saint Louis adds more depth to its front court with this verbal commitment.

  4. Transfer center will sit out upcoming season at Florida

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:26 PM EDT

    John Egbunu, Austin Nichols, David Pellom John Egbunu, Austin Nichols, David Pellom

    John Egbunu was an American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team selection at USF last season.

  5. VCU’s Treveon Graham: From lightly recruited to leader of Havoc, the Atlantic 10 favorites

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Preseason Atlantic 10 Player of the Year is looking to lead VCU deep into March.

  6. Canisius to be without two forwards due to ankle injury, suspension

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Jim Baron Jim Baron

    The Golden Griffins have to account for the loss of four starters from last season’s 21-win team.

  7. Kentucky, Xavier among those participating in #Layup4Lauren challenge (VIDEOS)

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 4.03.04 PM

    Feel free to take this as my challenge to you all.

  8. Top 25 Countdown: No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    marcus paige Getty Images

    North Carolina should be a national title contender, but they do have some question marks.

  9. Dayton’s Elite 8 run, Archie Miller’s decision to stay help continue Atlantic 10’s success

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dayton head coach Archie Miller spurned high-major programs to remain at Atlantic 10. He’s not the only one in the league happy with where they are.

  10. Assigned Reading: Devonta Pollard opens up about the kidnapping he was involved in

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    NIT Northeastern Alabama AP

    Pollard is looking to reignite his career at Houston this season.

  11. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Treveon Graham, VCU enter as favorites in the Atlantic 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Atlantic 10 is out to gain respect again this season from the rest of the college basketball world, a year after the league saw a record six teams selected for the NCAA tournament with one team reaching the Elite 8.

  12. 2014-15 Season Preview: Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky lead a strong crop of big men

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo) Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

    The list of big men dominating college basketball this season is solid.

  13. Former Georgia Tech head coach recuses self from Syracuse’s NCAA hearing

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    bobby-cremins AP

    Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.

  14. Transfer guard dismissed from Minnesota program

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT

    Zach Lofton, Zach Lofton,

    Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.

  15. Long Beach State, head coach Dan Monson agree to contract extension

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Dan Monson AP

    Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.

  16. Buffalo-area programs to wear special jerseys for Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Big 4 Basketball Classic Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.

  17. ACC releases its preseason media poll, all-conference team

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.