Just some morning-after thoughts from Duke’s 21-point blowout win over West Virginia last night:
- Can you believe where we are right now? I mean, really. This has to be one of K’s most masterful coaching jobs. This team was shrouded in doubt coming into the season, with the transfer of Elliot Williams to his hometown school, the departure of Gerald Henderson, and the fact that our big men were big, but unproven. Incredible that what the national media (including ourselves) called ‘not a great, vintage Duke team’ just dragged the Big East’s best up and down the floor. This victory wasn’t really in question at any point in the second half, either: the lead fluctuated between 6-10 before Duke broke it open with around 8 minutes left. I was pulling my hair out at halftime in anticipation of a WVU run—but it never came. And that was thanks to our…
- DEFENSE. The Mountaineers shot the ball very well in the first half—I got tired of watching us not defend Flowers and Wellington Smith on the perimeter. The eight point halftime margin was nice—and more than I expected. But our defense, which forced 10 Mountaineer turnovers while we gave up the rock just five times, was our driving force tonight. West Virginia has a bunch of great athletes, which is why they had four blocks to our one. But our pressure man-to-man came through again, holding WVU to just 57 points and absolutely deflating a huge yellow-clad audience.
- Kyle Singler absolutely lit it up. We escaped Baylor without the ACC Tourney MVP scoring a single field goal. But he erupted in the first half, scoring 14 points on some amazing takes to the hole and jumpers. Kyle looked liked an All-American one game after disappearing completely. If Gordon Hayward played his way into the first round against Michigan State, you have to say that Kyle’s 21 on 50% shooting is probably pushing his stock up like the Dow in the 90s.
- The beard still horrifies Duke opponents. Brian Zoubek had another ‘vintage Z’ performance (is it too early to say that?), scoring six points on three layups, and pulling down 10 boards. Of our stunning 20 assists, Zoubek had three, all on offensive rebounds and kick outs to the perimeter. The nation’s number one offensive rebounder is playing himself into late second round consideration. I mean really, Zoubek could be a 12th man on an NBA roster. With some work, maybe he could be like Todd Macculoch. Wow.
- Haters where? Most of the national media predicted Duke to lose this one: Parrish, Forde, Katz, O’Neil? Thanks for the newfound respect, we’ll take it. Did anyone predict Duke to blow out the Mountaineers, or for Jordan Davidson to hit the game’s final three pointer? By the way—congrats Jordie for going 100% in the Final Four so far! And a career high! I bet Davidson is glad he came back for the new Masters in Markets & Management Studies program
- We hope Da’Sean Butler recovers quickly. The young man has been a warrior all season, hitting an astouding six game winning shots, including this miraculous one against Georgetown in the Big East Tourney Final (thanks for beating the Hoyas! You too, Ohio!). Butler is WVU’s best player, and Bob Huggins considers him the best player he’s ever coached. High praise, considering Huggins has mentored guys like Kenyon Martin at Cincy. Butler’s gruesome fall after colliding with Zoubek is apparently a sprained knee, thankfully not an ACL injury. We wish him a quick convalescence because he should be a first round pick.
- Who the heck is Deniz Kilicli? OK, we found him. Yikes.
- Also, it should be noted that Cam Thoroughman, who after our 2008 loss to WVU famously said “Oh my god. Are you kidding me?” after being informed that Paulus was a McDonald’s All-American, has no game and couldn’t elicit enough respect from Huggins to play more than one garbage minute yesterday. I can take the barbs from real players like Joe Alexander or Mazzulla (sort of). But Thoroughman should keep his mouth shut.
- We saw Mr. Jim Scheyer outside Lucas Oil Stadium a few hours before the Butler-Mich. State tip off. I bet he enjoyed his son carve up the Mountaineer defense for 23 points. Wish we’d seen his wife too, though.
- I’m really glad Miles Plumlee hung on the rim, although the technical call was still questionable. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Andrew Bogut dislocated his elbow last night in a similar play, and we all remember Evan Turner’s back injury earlier in the year. Even if the call was outrageous, Plumlee was smart to hang on the rim and not crash his 6’10” frame to the ground. That’s a Christ School education for you!
- Does it have to be Butler? I was cheering for the Bulldogs from the upper decks yesterday, and there is so much to like about this team. The national media is begging for a miraculous upset on Monday night. This matchup feels like a literary binary: city/country, David/Goliath, agriculture/industry…any others I’m missing? The fact is, however, we match up very well with America’s Sweetheart: Matt Howard is a 6’8” starting center for anyone under a rock this Final Four. Before our game, I asked a Butler fan exiting the stadium who he’d rather play. He said West Virginia, because Duke has such great size. Good point. Sorry, pal!
Although the Bulldogs are the sentimental favorite and the entire stadium (lingering Spartans and Mountaineers as well) will be cheering against Duke, we feel confident about Monday night. But not overly confident. I’m not sure this kind of situation is precedented—a team in the title game miles away from its home court. We need to take care of business Monday night: I want to see Zoubek hoist the championship plank and roar like the head of the pride. Let’s get this in, Duke!