The NCAA tournament is great for the casual fan, but for true fans there isn't any sporting event that is this cruel. The nature of a one and done tournament is that your season always ends on a loss or by winning the National Title. Last year they won the title. This year it was back to the norm. And the cruel thing about the NCAA tournament isn't that you remember the exciting wins (you do), but how difficult the losses linger. I can't tell you much about the 2001 Elite 8 win Duke had against Temple, but I can tell you my exact feelings about Uconn, VCU, West Virginia, Kansas, Indiana, Villanova and now Arizona. The losses stick with you more than the wins.
As for last night, I have already spent a lot of time and effort thinking about the game. Some of my thoughts are below:
- Duke had their chance in the 1st half. Without Derrick Williams playing out of his mind, Duke would have been up 20 at halftime. That last three Williams hit to cut the lead from 9 to 6 was extremely important and one of the best shots I have seen all year.
- I don't remember ever seeing a college basketball team play better than Arizona did in the 2nd half. They shot 57%, grabbed a ton of rebounds and made some tough outside shots. In the end it all equaled an offensive performance of 1.53 points per possession. That is crazy when you think about it. That would be the equivalent of Duke fouling a 76% free throw shooter every single possession.
- Mason Plumlee and the post players for Duke are terrible. No one watching the game last night should be able to truthfully say that Plumlee is an NBA talent. He seems lost out there and his play severely hurt Duke's chances of winning the game.
- Derrick Williams on the other hand was incredible. If the Jazz or Twolves get the 1st pick they have to take Williams. How can someone that big and strong be so smart, productive and athletic?
- Kyrie Irving might come back to Duke next year. I hope he grows 8 inches, because Duke still needs a post player.
Thank you Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler for returning Duke to their proper place in college basketball. Both of you comprised an excellent senior class and the loss to Arizona does nothing to change that. In 2007 both of you came in (with Taylor King) at a low point in Duke basketball. The year before the team lost to VCU in the first round. With Singler and Smith the team made it from the 2nd round to the Sweet Sixteen to a title and now back to the Sweet Sixteen. Both of them were a large part of 3 ACC championship teams. Against UNC the senior class was 5-4, which is pretty remarkable considering how talented those UNC teams were during that time. It would have been nice to lead Duke to consecutive titles, but given the starting point I would like to think that every Duke fan has nothing but gratitude for your 4 years on the basketball team.