Word to the wise, never go against your favorite team no matter the circumstance. Don’t outsmart yourself with what you didn’t see, go with what you did see. Don’t focus on the negatives, just the positives. If I would’ve done that then I would’ve picked Duke to be in the final 4 and win the national championship instead of having them losing to Louisville in the second round… oops.
The argument against Duke was that they were a 3-man team of Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer (which was true, check the stats on offense to see). They weren’t athletic enough to beat Baylor, weren’t tough enough to hang with Purdue, and didn’t have the experience to get by West Virginia. They lost games to NC State (inexcusable), were beat up by Georgetown, and outhustled by Maryland. They got an easy draw in the tournament by the committee, based on the name brand being Duke. In reality all of those negatives hid the mind numbing positives.
(Just to be clear though, the easy bracket thing is most definitely true. Look I’m a fan, but there is no way that they should’ve gotten the third number seed over Syracuse, and handed an easier bracket than the team that was number one for 70 percent of the year in Kansas. However, in fairness they did play a virtual road game in Houston when they took on Baylor. Word to the NCAA, from now on when doing the field, maybe you shouldn’t put the three seed in a bracket where if they win they would be the home team over a 2 or 3 seed. Just saying)
One; they were not just Scheyer, Singler and Smith, the big men on this team made them tick. Brian Zoubek, after 3 highly disappointing season, dominated the boards in every tournament game and made life hell for the Butler guards on the inside. The Plumlee twins, Miles and Mason, were offensive rebounding machines and gave great minutes off of the bench, and Lance Thomas, the forgotten senior, was his usual stoic self limiting the Butler guards on their chances on the outside and giving Matt Howard fits on the inside while Zoubek rested. They were a complete team I just never saw it.
You can’t say enough about Kyle Singler however. Singler drove the offensive bus this evening when Smith or Scheyer couldn’t get shots to fall. Singler’s outstanding final four of averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds came off of a wretched game against Baylor when he shot 0 for 10 and finished with 5 points. Singler was the best player on the court for Duke offensively and made great plays on defense by blocking three shots and harassing Gordon Hayward all night.
Yet the credit will, and should, go to coach Mike Krzyzewski. For the last few years you had to wonder if maybe Roy Williams was winning the recruiting battle in North Carolina, and that maybe Coach K was more focused on coaching LeBron and company in the Olympics. This tournament proved that Coach K is as focused as ever. He used the Plumlee twins brilliantly off of the bench and implementing that hellacious man-to-man defense that wouldn’t sleep. He kept the ball in the players’ hands that knew what best to do with it and gave the others their proper roles and it paid off in the end.
So it seems like life is back to normal in college hoops. After the wildest tournament in recent memory that was filled with surprises. An old faithful stands at the top of the hill, much to the angst of everyone from Indianapolis to Chapel Hill to the left coast. Turns out for all of our talk about Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse being the best team in the country, the best one of them all was sitting right there all along. All of us, including yours truly were blinded by what was wrong and missed everything that was right. My bad Coach K. It will never happen again, promise.