Four Down, Two to Go!


Let’s pretend for a second that I told you before today’s game that Kyle Singler would go 0-10 from the floor tonight, yet Duke would still win. Be honest, you’d probably would have punched me in the face, right?

Yet, here we are. The Duke Blue Devils took over late against Baylor, putting the game away on a 15-3 run late, and just like that, Duke is headed back to the Final Four for the first time since J.J. Redick was a sophomore.

In the end, there were 4 reasons for Duke’s win tonight. Let’s get on them.


Like we said this morning, if Duke was going to win, they would have to hit open threes. The simple fact was, Baylor’s 2-3 zone would give them open looks. Duke came through. They finished the game hitting 11-23 from three, but five of those misses belong to Singler. Scheyer and Smith combined to shoot 9-16, while Dawkins delivered two huge threes in the first half.

Again, I talked about the mid-range shot this morning. Baylor likes to block shots. The Blue Devils would need to pull up in the middle before reaching the trees and hit 8-10 foot jumpers. Tonight, Nolan Smith did just that. He hit five mid-range jumpers. More often than not, they were runners into the lane.

Now Baylor got their blocks, but they were all shots inside on Duke’s big men. They blocked none of Smith’s shots and none of Scheyer’s shots. They did swipe away one of Singler’s shots.

The Duke Blue Devils should have been charging rent under the basket, because they owned the glass (didn’t I use this joke already?), especially in the second half. The Duke Blue Devils pulled down 22 offensive rebounds for the game and they produced 19, yes 19, second chance shots in the second half. That’s how Duke can shoot only 36% and still score 78 and win.

The irony is, I spent most of my night cursing at Lance Thomas. He was 2-9 from the floor, constantly putting up bad shots square in the middle of traffic. His first three misses were all blocked. Midway through the second half I was praying for Thomas to just foul out. I was frustrated. Obviously I was too frustrated because I missed that Thomas was living on the offensive boards.

For the game, he grabbed nine total boards, including eight offensive rebounds. Of course none was bigger than his put-back slam dunk with 1:38 on the clock. He got the two and got fouled, hitting the free throw. He turned a tight five-point contest into a comfortable eight-point lead.

Looking at the stats, you might hold off on praising Duke’s D tonight. Baylor shot a solid 45% and Ekpe Udoh had a ton of open slam dunks, scoring 18. Yet, Coach K’s strategy was simple. No matter how much success Udoh had (as well as Quincy Acey, who shot 5-7), Duke’s guards were not going to leave Baylor’s guards. Duke stuck to their guns on the three-point line and didn’t give either Dunn or Carter open looks from the outside. The Bears only hit 5-18 from deep.

He’s the least talked about of the Big Three, but he’s been the most important in the South Regional. Tonight, he was on fire, scoring a career high 29 points. He did it both ways, hitting deep threes and driving into the paint. His mid-range runner is becoming the stuff of legend.

Just as importantly, he’s the best defender at the guard spot, often being asked to shadow the opponents best ball-handler. Stud.

The future is starting to look bright. Tonight, all three subs; Miles, Mason and Dawkins produced big time tonight. First, Dawkins hit two huge threes in the first half, including one gigantic one at the end.

With Baylor rolling on a 10-0 run to end the first half, Dawkins nailed an open three. He cut the Bears six-point lead in half and allowed Duke to enter half time with their heads up high.

On the inside, Miles and Mason were the two best big men on the floor for long stretches tonight.

Of course when you face a zone, you need a man in the middle who is a threat to shoot. This will force the opponents to collapse in, this opening things up for everyone else. Both Plumlee brothers performed super in the middle. They each hit a jumper, grabbed 12 combined rebounds in 35 total minutes, while Mason dished out a couple of assists.

STAT OF THE DAY: 78-71, final score. Damn, I almost called it. I predicted a 76-68 Duke win. I almost nailed it.

It had to be the charge call on Quincy Acy with 4:47 to go. You should remember the play. Acy got the ball on the wing. He was open for a jumper. Instead, he took it inside. Zoubek jumped over to take a charge. It was a close call that could have gone either way. The ref decided that Zoubek got there in time. He called the charge on Acy.

At the time, Baylor was up 59-57. From that moment, Duke would take over. They’d go on a 15-3 run and the game would be over. Done.

Now my personal opinion is…I don’t know if it was a good call. Looking at the replay, Zoubek did beat Acy to the spot. The problem is, when was the last time Zoubek ever got that call. Lance Thomas, sure, but Zoubek loses every 50/50 call. That’s what shocked me the most.

Obviously we can’t predict how things would have ended up if the call went the other way, but Baylor would have been shooting free throws with a two-point lead and Brian Zoubek would have fouled out.

Duke gets all the calls. The haters have been screaming it for years. When you challenge them and ask them to explain how and why Duke gets the calls, they’d say that the refs were afraid of Coach K and all his yelling and cursing. Comical, yes. But it never really infuriated me. I grew up screaming the same thing about Coach Dean Smith.

Now though, the hate is getting pathetic. Now the haters have decided that Duke gets all the calls because the NCAA and the refs are in collusion to get Duke to the Final Four. This makes me sick. They’re basically willing to say that there is no integrity in this game.

Obviously, haters will say anything to knock the Blue Devils down. They’ll do anything to take away Duke’s success. They’ll make up anything to undermine a Duke win.

The fact is, when you say that the NCAA put Duke in an easier bracket because they want them to go to the Final Four for TV ratings, it’s a no-lose situation for their argument. If Duke makes it to the Final Four, they can then say, “see, I told you they were in the easiest bracket.” If Duke fails to make it to the Final Four, they can then claim, “see, I told you Duke didn’t deserve to be a No 1 seed.”

The only thing I can say to them is, why do you watch this sport? If everything is predetermined by the secret mob of the NCAA and the referees, then why watch? Pathetic.

In the end, f*ck the hate. Your Duke Blue Devils are back in the Final Four? They are the only No 1 seed in the semis. Although you could argue that West Virginia was a 1A Seed. Your Duke Blue Devils are two wins away from a fourth national title.

Will Duke be the favorite? Probably not. West Virginia should be the favorite…but in reality, any of the four teams can walk away with this thing.