Feb 24, 2012, 12:56 AM EDT
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.
Apr 18, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Boise State received some encouraging news this week as Anthony Drmic is returning for another season.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:36 PM EDT
Hammons’ decision to return makes the Boilermakers a Top 25 team.
Apr 18, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan has been taking classes at the school in order to complete his degree.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 PM EDT
A look at the top storylines from the 14th annual Jordan Brand Classic.
Apr 18, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT
Illinois landed a huge graduate transfer on Saturday.
Apr 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT
Coppin State junior guard Sterling Smith is looking like a prime graduate transfer.
Apr 18, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
Kentucky five-star big man Skal Labissiere believes that the NCAA will allow him to play this season.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:23 PM EDT
Cheick Diallo won named MVP for both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
Hoiberg just completed his fifth season at Iowa State.
Apr 17, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT
The Aztecs now have no commits for 2016.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT
Domantas Sabonis previously announced he would return.
Apr 17, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
The Jordan Brand Classic is Friday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
The former Villanova guard cut his list to eight.
Apr 17, 2015, 4:23 PM EDT
Thanks to this ruling Neal will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Apr 17, 2015, 3:19 PM EDT
Heron, who committed to Pitt back in January 2014, says he will continue to consider Jamie Dixon’s program.
Apr 17, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Dazon Ingram joins Brandon Austin and Donta Hall, both of whom remained committed following the firing of Anthony Grant, in Alabama’s 2015 class.
Former Florida guard discusses Billy Donovan’s potential as an NBA head coach on ‘Dan Patrick Show’ (VIDEO)
Apr 17, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Beal spoke highly of his college coach, including how a possible adjustment would go should Donovan decide to try his hand at the NBA game.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT
Harris is the fifth departure from the Kansas State program since the end of the season.
Apr 17, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
Hooley’s game-winning shot in the America East title game came less than two months after his mother passed from a lengthy bout with colon cancer.
Apr 17, 2015, 12:04 AM EDT
Hale is Alabama’s leading returning scorer, as he averaged 8.2 points per game last season.
- Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season 0
- Five-star 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman commits to UNLV 3
- College basketball’s eight most important NBA Draft decisions 2
- Updated 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too Early Preseason Top 25 8
- 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List 10
- Duke’s Tyus Jones becomes third Blue Devil to enter the NBA Draft 11
- Duke freshman Justise Winslow will enter 2015 NBA Draft 8
- Duke’s Tyus Jones becomes third Blue Devil to enter the NBA Draft (11)
- 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List (10)
- Duke freshman Justise Winslow will enter 2015 NBA Draft (8)
- Updated 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too Early Preseason Top 25 (8)
- 6-foot-11 center Antonio Vrankovic commits to Duke (6)