Well, that was anti-climatic.
It only took four minutes and 29 seconds for No. 6 UNC to open up a double-digit lead against No. 4 Duke. The Tar Heels were up 17 points by the second TV timeout. By halftime, the lead had swelled all the way to 24. And while the Blue Devils were able to trim the deficit to 11 at one point in the second half, there is no denying what we saw on Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium: a blowout.
All the buildup of the Duke-UNC rivalry. All the hype surrounding the rematch of what could very well be the best game of the college basketball season with the ACC regular season title on the line. The bright lights of ESPN’s Gameday in attendance. And the only thing we learned from UNC’s 88-70 win over Duke is that the Blue Devils may be the nation’s most overrated good team.
That’s not to say Duke isn’t talented. Because they are. Austin Rivers is a talented scorer. So is Seth Curry. Andre Dawkins is a lights-out shooter when he gets into a rhythm. The Plumlees are athletic freaks that can be very effective in the paint. Ryan Kelly’s ability to stretch the floor is valuable.
But never have we seen Duke’s flaws exposed so blatantly as they were tonight.
The Blue Devils are a bad defensive team. It really is that simple. Curry, Rivers and Dawkins would have trouble defending the chair that Yi Jianlian so infamously dominated in his NBA Draft workouts. They don’t have anyone capable of guarding a quality small forward, which is why 6’1″ Tyler Thornton spent the majority of the game trying to slow down 6’8″ Harrison Barnes. Is it any wonder that Duke’s run in the second half came when they finally started stringing together some stops?
Offensively, Duke can be dangerous because of how well they shoot the three-ball. Its what their offensive is predicated on. But as the saying goes, live by the three and die by the three. When they aren’t falling, you see performances like you did tonight from the Blue Devils.
Duke does not pass the eye test for a one or two seed, but the eye test doesn’t determine where a team is going to be seeded. That’s why the Blue Devils will, rightfully, end up being a one or a two seed in the tournament. They beat so many good teams in the non-conference portion of their schedule that its inevitable.
What that means that there is going to be some team sitting somewhere around a seven seed that will be licking their chops come the second round of the tournament. What happens if the Blue Devils draw a team like San Diego State (who is currently being projected as a seven seed) or Long Beach State (who is getting a ten seed in some brackets) or any other team with a quality back court?
I can already tell you who the trendiest upset pick is going to be come Selection Sunday.