Well, that wasn’t fun.
A season that started off so promising just ended in a big fat, baby blue dud. The Duke Blue Devils simply looked overmatched against North Carolina, losing 81-67. The fact is, Duke was never really in this thing. The one time Duke made a mini-run to open the first half, Carolina quickly rallied for a 9-2 run.
Luckily for all of us, this is college basketball and not college football. In the grand scheme of things, this game only really hurts a man’s pride. A team like Duke will solely be judged during that three-week tournament set to start in roughly two weeks.
SO WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
TWO ON FIVE
For the second time this season, only two Duke players were effective against North Carolina. They were of course Nolan Smith and Seth Curry. The former did his damage with the drive, while the latter did his damage outside.
For the game, the pair were 15-32. The rest of the team was 7-30. In two games against the Tar Heels, Nolan and Seth are 36-65 from the field. The rest of the team is just 14-65.
Sorry folks, but you can’t beat North Carolina on the road with just two players producing.
Having said that, it’s not like either played a perfect game.
Nolan shot 0-4 from three. In fact, he’s 0-7 in his last two road games (both loses).
While Curry was a demon from the outside, the kid has some serious work to do to develop a drive to the basket. He made Marshall look like the conferences’ best defender. Not once was Curry able to drive the ball past anyone.
Lastly, in Duke’s win over Carolina, they turned Kendall Marshall into a scorer. Tonight, not so much. He finished the game with 11 assists and is clearly the ACC’s best point guard right now.
SINGLER VS TALENT
In their first match up, Kyle Singler and Harrison Barnes pretty much played to a draw. Neither did much on the offensive end, thus canceling each other out. Tonight, Barnes did score 18, but he needed 17 shots to do it. Yet, you would never say that Barnes looked rattled. You can’t say the same for Kyle.
In two games against Barnes, Singler is just 6-31 from the floor. That’s awful. That’s also the reason why Singler will probably never be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. Barnes is exactly the kind of talent Singler will face nightly in the NBA. Barnes is longer and more athletic and so far Singler has not figured out an answer for him. He can’t drive. He can’t do much inside with Henson and Zeller helping. He could do some damage on the outside, but he just looks rushed out there.
COME ON RYAN KELLY!
I can’t remember a time when I’ve been more frustrated with Ryan Kelly. This game was set up for him. North Carolina showed right from the start that they were not going to guard Kelly on the outside. He hits some of those shots, this is a different game.
Kelly couldn’t hit anything from deep. He missed all six of his three pointers, all three were wide open looks (five from the same corner spot on the floor). I’m sorry, but Coach K can suit me up and I can produce those kind of stats.
Those misses were huge. The whole idea of Kelly being on the floor is because he’s suppose to be a threat from outside. If he hits one or two of them, it clears the lane up because it forces Henson to roll out to defend him.
On twitter, everyone kept calling for coach to bench Kelly and put Singler at the four spot, but against North Carolina that’s not a legit option. They’re just too big. You put Singler on Henson, then who guards Barnes? Dawkins? That would literally mean that Duke would be smaller at every single position on the floor.
SPEAKING OF DEFENSE
I’ll be honest, this is the best defensive team I’ve ever seen by a team led by Roy Williams. They’re just so damn long inside and Barnes is such a weapon because he can defend both inside and out.
STAT OF THE GAME: Kendall Marshall assists: 11. Duke (as a team): 9.
0-3 FROM THE LINE
Before anyone says I’m having a knee-jerk reaction, I’ve been mulling this over for a while, but I’m finally going to ask, does Andre Dawkins have a future on this team?
Granted, in the grand scheme of things, his 0-3 from the FT line at the end didn’t really matter (that’s not why Duke lost), but to watch Coach K pull him for Thornton at the end was telling.
The fact is, Dawkins has failed to play double-digit minutes in four of his last five games. Sure he can’t hit some threes, but for the second straight year, he has collapsed in ACC play. Now last year, the death of his sister had to have played a part (how could it not?), but looking at Dawkins now, he has not developed at all since last year.
So I ask, does he have a future with this team?
WOULD IRVING HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE?
Of course he would. Now we know Carolina has lost some players this year too. They lost the Wear twins in the pre-season, Drew mid-season and Reggie Bullock late, but the fact is, it’s not like this Tar Heels team would be better with any of those four guys. Knox is better than both Wear brothers, Drew was terrible and Bullock was a three-point specialist who couldn’t hit a three. None could do what Irving did.
Now there are a lot of places Irving is missed. I would love to see him matched up one-on-one with Marshall. However, the place he’s missed the most is after a missed basket by the opponent.
Duke never made Carolina pay for a missed basket. Think about it, how do you minimize Carolina’s size inside? By running. They can’t defend and block shots if they’re running behind the play. Irving could push the ball faster than anyone in the conference. Nolan and Seth can’t.
Think back to how many times North Carolina got an easy basket in seconds, with the brother Plumlees or Ryan Kelly trailing the play. Huge difference.
Just look at the numbers between the two centers. Zeller shoots 7-11, all on short baskets (often hook shots), while Mason goes 0-4 from the floor. The reality is, the last time Duke developed a big man with a scoring touch was Sheldon Williams.
I’ll be honest, I never thought North Carolina would win the ACC Crown. Not in a million years. Even after Irving went down, I still had Duke penciled in at the top. The sad part is, it wasn’t even about this game. Duke and North Carolina split. There is no shame in that.
Duke lost the ACC because when they were challenged with a tough road environment against decent teams, they lost. They couldn’t get it done at Florida State, they couldn’t get it done in Virginia Tech (and don’t forget about St. John’s). That’s what cost them the ACC.
At the very least, the Duke as a #1 seed talk will finally end. Sorry, if you can’t win your regular season conference, you don’t deserve a top seed.
When you wake up Monday, Duke will probably fall to 8th in polls. Right now, you could consider them a two-seed in the tournament, probably in the East Regional against Ohio State or Pittsburgh.
However, we’re not there yet and there is still an ACC Tournament to play. Now that Duke is the two-seed in the ACC tournament, they’ll get the winner of the Maryland/Miami game (two teams that know how to face Duke) and then most likely Florida State in the semis.
The reality is, Duke will probably end up facing North Carolina again next Sunday. If Duke were to lose that one, they could fall to a third seed. If they win, it’s still unlikely that they earn a number one.