March Madness: Breaking Down The East Region

With the NCAA Tournament just over 24 hours away, we continue our breakdown of the entire field. After looking at the South and West regions in the last two days, it’s time to examine the East region, where top-ranked Syracuse was not given an easy road to New Orleans.

The East region.

Best First Round Matchup: #5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Harvard

Come on…how could we not pick this game? This should present a classic 5-12 matchup between a Vanderbilt team fresh off a victory over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament and Tommy Amaker’s squad from Harvard. Vanderbilt’s had the epitome of an up and down season this year. After being ranked in the preseason top-10 and falling completely off the radar, they turned it on again late in the season and are now being considered one of the contenders in the East regional. Their run to an SEC Tournament championship boosted their seeding up to a #5, despite having not been ranked higher than 25th in the AP poll since November. While some believe that Vanderbilt may be overseeded, just as many believe Harvard was victimized by the selection committee. Despite being nationally ranked for five weeks throughout the season, the Crimson could only muster a 12-seed while many believed they were deserving of a 10 or 11. All in all, this should be a great basketball game. Vanderbilt has proved throughout the season that they are capable of beating any team in the country, but they are also capable of losing to any team in the country. Harvard has played consistently throughout the season and are an extremely well coached team, but other than matchups against Florida State and Connecticut early in the season they haven’t faced an opponent this good in a long time. Expect for this game to be close into the game’s final five minutes, but ultimately Vanderbilt’s athleticism will prove too much for Harvard.

Player To Watch: John Jenkins, #5 Vanderbilt

Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 guard from Hendersonville, Tennessee, is the key to the Commodores’ offense. They have a great opportunity to advanced deep into the East region, but if they are going to do so Jenkins will need to be on his game. He averaged 19.9 points per game for Vanderbilt on the season, shooting a 44.8% clip from 3-point range. Not only has he proven that he’s able to knock down crucial shots from deep, he will be especially important for the Commodores late in games, shooting 84.3% from the free throw line on the year. With a tough first round matchup against a defensively-minded Harvard team and a potential second round tilt with Wisconsin, Jenkins is a huge piece to how this region will play out.

Player To Not Watch: Fab Melo, #1 Syracuse

It was announced yesterday that Syracuse’s pursuit of a trip to New Orleans would be one that did not include its starting center, Fab Melo. The Orange released on their website Tuesday afternoon that Melo would be ineligible to play due to what they considered an “eligibility issue”. Although they were nondescript in the reason for his absence, this is a huge blow to Syracuse and a major shake-up in the East region. Syracuse is a different team without Melo, especially on the defensive end of the floor, where Melo averaged 2.9 blocks per game. Although 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game is not that much offensive production to lose, you have to think that the Orange might have been shaken mentally by losing one of their team’s key members just two days before the tournament begins.

Dark Horse: #4 Wisconsin

Although Vanderbilt has been getting most of the attention in this region after knocking off top-ranked Kentucky, we see Wisconsin as a team poised for a run. They play a great brand of postseason basketball- they are big, physical, experienced, and play lockdown defense for 40 minutes. Their road through the East regional just got a lot easier when Syracuse announced they would be playing without Fab Melo. They’ll have a tough second round test against Vanderbilt, but if they can get through there they should be able to overpower a depleted Syracuse team and make a run to the Elite 8.

Our Picks: Ohio State to the Final Four

Remember that Ohio State team that absolutely trounced Duke back in November? They haven’t gone anywhere. With Syracuse appearing weakened, the East region just completely opened up for Ohio State. They could have a tough Sweet 16 matchup with Florida State, but should they survive it looks like they’ll be going to New Orleans. Jared Sullinger is one of the top talents in the country, but what makes the Buckeyes particularly dangerous is their physicality and their guard play. Aaron Craft is a floor general that can pick apart an opponent from the inside out, while I think Duke fans remember the fits that William Buford gave us from beyond the arc. They are a very experienced team and that should serve them well in a deep tournament run. There just isn’t a team in this region well-equipped enough to stop them, and if Sullinger somehow is able to elevate his game further for tournament time, the top teams in other regions will start to take notice as well.

Below are our complete picks. Let us know what you think in the comment box!

Our picks for the East region. Looks like Ohio State will be dancing down to Bourbon Street.

March Madness: Breaking Down The South Region

It’s that time of year! The NCAA Tournament is upon us, which means it’s time to make our picks for the three most exciting weeks of the basketball season. In the next few days, we’ll be breaking the tournament region by region in our efforts to turn the Average Joe into a regular Joey Brackets. Let’s start with the South region.

The South region

Best First Round Matchup: #5 Wichita St. vs. #12 VCU

It won't be another run to the Final Four for VCU, but should be a great second round game.

This is a matchup between two mid-majors that are both very, very hot right now. Wichita State has lost twice since January 4 while Virginia Commonwealth has lost just once since January 8. They are set to collide Thursday in Portland in a matchup between two teams that could both easily make a run to the Sweet 16. Wichita St. sports a balanced offensive attack, with three players averaging more than 12 points per game. While they love to run and gun on offense, they also crash the boards relentlessly, pulling down 38 rebounds per game. Senior Garrett Stutz paces the Shockers’ offense. The 7-foot center records 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, shooting 82.1% from the free throw line. Meanwhile, VCU operates at a significantly slower pace. This is not the same team you saw make a run to the Final Four last year- the only starter remaining from last year’s team is senior Bradford Burgess, who leads the Rams with 13.3 points per game. But the Rams prefer to earn their stripes on the defensive end of the floor. Although they lost many key pieces from their tournament run last season, they haven’t lost the “havoc” defense that got them there. They’ll be all over the floor trying to slow Wichita State down and force as many turnovers as possible. Expect this game to be a chess match between two great coaches, VCU’s Shaka Smart and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall will be struggling throughout the game to control the pace. Marshall previously led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in nine seasons before being hired by Wichita State in 2007. Ultimately, the Shockers should prove too strong for the Rams, but this should be a great basketball game.

Dark Horse: #6 UNLV
Look out for the Runnin’ Rebels. UNLV’s successes this season didn’t end when they knocked off previously top-ranked North Carolina in November. They went on to defeat then-ranked Illinois and split matchups with a talented San Diego State team. This is a team that is fully loaded with offensive firepower, and other teams might not be able to keep up. Sophomore Mike Moser is a force inside, averaging a double-double at 14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Chace Stanback is the type of player that can take a stake and absolutely drive it into another team’s heart. Shooting a 46.4% clip from beyond the arc, Stanback is the sixth-ranked long-range shooter in the nation. When he gets going- watch out. Chace led the way with 28 points and 10 rebounds in UNLV’s victory over North Carolina and shot 8-for-9 from beyond the arc en route to 29 points in a win over Louisiana-Monroe. This is the type of team that is very capable of catching fire and making a run to the Elite 8, but could face a very tough third round matchup with an equally athletic Baylor team. These teams will make for a great matchup, and if UNLV can survive they could be big trouble for Duke in the Sweet 16.

Our Picks:

Don’t expect too many surprises in this region. The first round will be dominated by the higher seeds, as the two most dangerous lower seeded teams–Wichita State and VCU–have been matched up with one another. Iowa State and Connecticut will be close, but expect UConn’s talent should prevail. Xavier is far and away the best 10-seed in the tournament, and will be a tough test for Duke in the next round. Duke fans, be warned: Lehigh will also be a tough opponent for the Blue Devils. Lehigh hasn’t lost a game by double digits all season, and is the highest Pomeroy-rated 15 seed in the field. That said, here’s how our bracket shaped up:

Crazie Talk's picks for the South region. Yes, we hope to have a rematch of the greatest game ever played. But chances are that UK will come out on top.

The Final Four Pick: Kentucky. There’s a reason why they are the top overall seed in this year’s tournament: Kentucky is far and away the most talented team in the country. They ran away with the SEC this season, finishing with a perfect 16-0 record. Anthony Davis is the odds on favorite to win both National Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the NCAA. They are simply too deep, too athletic, too talented for anyone in arguably this tournament’s toughest region to contend with. Whether or not they’ll be able to win a national championship with a bunch of one-and-dones and questionable team chemistry remains to be seen, but they should be able to make a run to New Orleans without more than a slight scare.

We’ll be back to preview the West region tomorrow. Let us know what you think about our analysis and picks in the comments below.

Section 17: Clean Slate

Miles addressing the crowd on Senior Night (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

No, the regular season did not end the way Duke wanted it to. There was no celebration, there were no championship banners, just Miles Plumlee standing at center court thanking the Duke faithful on senior night. Good news is, starting today, none of that matters. Duke saw its first action in the ACC tournament Friday night when it dispatched the 2nd-seeded Blue Devils dispatched of 10th-seeded Virginia Tech by a score of 60-56 at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena. Many call this tournament the Duke Invitational- Duke has been crowned champions of the ACC tournament in 10 of the last 13 seasons.

However, this year, the road to another ACC tournament championship would be a little bit tougher. Just as the regular season ended on a bad note with a loss to Carolina, the first days of the postseason were not favorable for the Blue Devils as well. On Tuesday the team received news that Ryan Kelly would be unable to play in the ACC tournament due to a sprained right foot that he suffered during practice. Kelly was not only a crucial piece of the Blue Devils offense due to his size, versatility, and ability to hit from outside, but he was also a part of Duke’s thin frontcourt rotation. While typically utilizing a three guard attack, Duke normally only uses Kelly along with Miles and Mason Plumlee at its forward spots. Especially with the Plumlees finding themselves in foul trouble during Duke’s last few games, this meant that the Blue Devils would have to attack Virginia Tech with an undersized lineup.

Duke will have to win the ACC tournament this year without Ryan Kelly (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)


The Duke team that we saw on the court against Virginia Tech was different from the team we’d been watching all season. This was both good and bad. Unlike the team we’d seen knock down shots from long distance all year, Duke was not stroking it from deep against the Hokies. They only shot 5-for-26 on the game- just a 19.2% clip, half of their season average. Meanwhile, Duke played far scrappier basketball than I’d seen them play all year. They were getting it done with defense, and although they only forced 10 Hokies turnovers on the game, a little bit of hustle went a long way for Duke. It seemed as though they were everywhere on the defensive end. They were timing their switches perfectly and their help-side defense was working to perfection. It seemed as though nearly every Virginia Tech shot was a contested one, and although the Blue Devils struggled on the glass in the game’s opening minutes, they were able to pull down crucial rebounds when it counted the most.

Yes, this was an ugly game. A very ugly game. The first half was close throughout, and even when Duke started to knock down shots and pull away in the second half, Virginia Tech was able to find its way back into the contest. But personally I’m willing to sacrifice some style points for fighting out a gritty win. I’d much rather win a close game by playing sound defense and hustling than by shooting the lights out and running away by 30. The shots will start to fall, but this is the type of basketball we need to be playing regardless of whether or not we’re knocking down jumpers. As we progress farther into postseason play, we’ll need to do both to beat some of the best teams in the country. But for now, I am perfectly content with playing lockdown defense while we wait for this shots to start falling.

Kelly’s absence meant more playing time for Josh Hairston, who stepped up admirably off the bench and contributed 17 quality minutes. This was the most Hairston has played in a game since December 30. Although he only contributed four points and three rebounds, Hairston was a huge part of Duke’s defensive presence throughout the game. His ability to hustle on defense and body up in the paint was huge when playing with an undersized team. Especially when Miles Plumlee had to head to the bench in the first half after picking up two early fouls, Hairston’s effort was crucial to Duke’s success in this game. After not seeing very much action in most of his team’s biggest games this year, props to Josh for stepping up when Duke needed him the most.

13 is a lot of 3-point attempts, but how can you not shoot them when you're this wide open? (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

Tyler Thornton was the MVP of this game. He contributed a career-high 13 points, adding four rebounds, two assists, and three steals. But it was what he added that doesn’t show up on a box score that was most important. Tyler emerged as a floor general tonight, similar to what we saw from him earlier in the season. He controlled the pace of the game, and embraced the fact that his team would have to grind out a win. He was constantly vocal on both ends of the floor, which was crucial to Duke’s success, especially on the defensive end. Although he only registered three steals, he completely changed the game on the defensive end, knocking down many passes, providing constant pressure, and getting in the face of Virginia Tech’s star guard, Erick Green, and making him fight for every shot. Tyler was also not afraid to step up and take big shots. He knocked down Duke’s opening bucket of the game with a 3-pointer, and little did we know but that would set the tone for the rest of the game. Thornton would go on to take 16 shots, including 13 from beyond the arc, which would be too many for him, if not for the amount of open looks he was getting. For some reason Virginia Tech felt very free to rotate off of him to supply double teams, leaving him open for a lot of looks. He’ll need to knock down a few more of those open threes moving forward, but he was definitely a presence that changed the outcome of this game.

Seth was a warrior in the second half, fighting to contribute until the shots started falling (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

This game highlighted a huge difference between Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry- Curry can still contribute when he does not score. Both of these players did not have very good games, each entering halftime without getting on the scoreboard. Dawkins was unable to bounce back, while Curry was able to fight through and make a difference. Andre finished 0-for-5 from the floor in 14 minutes. He looked lost on both ends of the floor. Seth turned it on in the second half, knocking down a huge three to get on the board and finished with nine points, six rebounds, and five assists. The Blue Devils had missed their previous 10 3-point attempts before Curry hit that shot. That kind of mental toughness is something that all of Duke’s players can take a lesson from moving forward.

We've come to expect these sorts of games from Mason Plumlee (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

Mason Plumlee was his usual man-child self, but with an added twist. Not only did he manage yet another efficient game with 12 points and 10 boards on 4-of-6 shooting, he went 4-for-5 from the free throw line. He’s shooting 79% from the charity stripe in his last three games, and has made a conscious effort to improve his free throw shooting during the second half of this season. Ever since his terrible 2-for-10 fiasco against Virginia, he’s been a different free throw shooter. I know it sounds a bit scary to say it, but I actually felt confident watching Mason Plumlee step to the line against Virginia Tech. Hopefully he’s able to carry this forward- he’s definitely getting hot at the right time.

It wasn’t pretty, it was very scrappy, but I think there are a lot of positives to pull out of a game that overall was not a very positive one. We showed that we could win without Ryan Kelly (keep in mind that we don’t know how long it will be until he is 100% again), we showed that we can win without hitting long range shots, and we showed that we can win by defending, not simply by outscoring our opponents. It’s a little disheartening to play inferior teams and consistently find ourselves in close game, but let’s face it, it’s tournament time. The only type of postseason game is a close game. By playing in high pressure situations throughout the season, we’re putting ourselves at an advantage over teams like Kentucky that are blowing their opponents out every night. Regardless of whether or not the other team is good enough to be playing us that tightly, learning how to win gritty, tight contests is how you have success in March. It’s time to put that to the test.

Recruiting Roundup: Duke-UNC Brings Out Top High School Talent

College basketball’s greatest rivalry is much more than just a game or a way of life. For Duke and North Carolina, college basketball’s biggest stage also serves as a vital recruiting tool. This season, a number of top recruits were on hand to watch the Blue Devils fall to the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Let’s take a closer look at these high school phenoms and assess their chances of being the next generation of Duke basketball.

Shabazz Muhammad
Class of 2012
Bishop Gorman High School- Las Vegas, Nevada
SF- 6’6″, 215 lbs.
#1 in Rivals150, #2 by Scout.com, #2 in ESPNU100

Shabazz Muhammad was far and away the top recruit in his class until Tilton’s Nerlens Noel decided to reclassify to the Class of 2012 and graduate this spring. He still possesses an unmistakable talent and has had college programs across the country salivating throughout the year as they await his decision. This man is simply a scorer, using his sizable frame to get to the basket at will against some of the top high school competition in the nation. The lefty was named a McDonald’s All-American and will play for the West on March 28 in Chicago. He could stand to work a bit on his perimeter shooting, but Muhammad is easily the most NBA-ready talent in this year’s recruiting class. Although he has unmistakable offensive prowess, Shabazz possesses great skills on the glass and the defensive end for a man his size. He averaged 25.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in his junior season. Muhammad recently led Bishop Gorman to a state championship, scoring 36 points on 15-of-17 shooting as Bishop Gorman thumped Reno’s Hug High School 96-51. 30 of his 36 points came in the first half, in which he outscored Hug’s team 30-25. This was Bishop Gorman’s third consecutive state title.

Shabazz has narrowed down his top six schools to Duke, Kentucky, UNLV, Kansas, UCLA, and North Carolina. The most major players at this point, however, appear to be Duke, Kentucky, and UNLV. Kansas remains in the mix as a dark horse and UCLA, who was considered to be the outright leaders in the Shabazz sweepstakes earlier in the season, appears to have fallen out of the race. Although UNLV appears to be a black sheep on this list as a school outside of a power-six conference, Muhammad has indicated that he might not mind staying close to home, and the Rebels boast a young and revitalized team under first-year head coach Dave Rice.

Muhammad arrived for his Duke visit late Thursday afternoon last week. It was the last of his official visits- he had made his visit to Kentucky back in October for their Midnight Madness and attended Kansas’s second matchup with Missouri in February. He was hosted for a night by current Duke freshman Alex Murphy. Muhammad attended Thursday’s screening of Christian Laettner and Grant Hill’s documentary “Duke ’91 & ’92: Back To Back” with many current members of the Duke team. He also attended the Duke-UNC managers basketball game later that night and was seen having a good time with many of the Duke players. He was then on hand for the Duke-Carolina game at Cameron on Saturday night. Although the outcome of the game was not what the Blue Devils wanted, it appeared their visit with Muhammad was a very positive one. Although he seems to fit the mold of the stereotypical Kentucky one and done, he really did seem to enjoy Duke. Reports had surfaced earlier that week questioning whether or not Shabazz had received improper benefits and would be eligible to play next season, but it appears at the moment that his family is fully cooperating with the NCAA’s investigation and that he will remain eligible. Duke seems to be a stronger player for Muhammad than most people give them credit for. Although it does not normally serve as a destination for players who don’t expect to stay in college for more than a year, Shabazz is one of the most competitive high school players in the nation, so I’d consider his race to still be wide open.

Amile Jefferson
Class of 2012
Friends Central School- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
PF- 6’8″, 200 lbs.
#36 in Rivals150, #22 by Scout.com, #18 in ESPNU100

Amile Jefferson, also a 2012 McDonald’s All-American, has continued the tradition set forth by Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, and Rasheed Wallace of great high school basketball players to come out of Philadelphia. Jefferson recently led Friends Central to its fourth consecutive PAISAA state title, capping off the 2011-2012 season with a 22-5 record. He finished his senior season averaging 19.8 points per game and recorded a double-double in his team’s state championship victory over The Westtown School, outdueling fellow top recruit Daniel Ochefu. Jefferson has the quickness and versatility that will serve him well in college, though he will need to hit the weight room hard this summer to get strong enough to compete at the next level. He has an uncanny ability to drive and get to the hoop, especially for a power forward. One of Jefferson’s biggest draws is the unselfish nature of his play and his extremely high basketball IQ. It would be huge for the Blue Devils to land a big man like Amile in this year’s recruiting class. Their frontcourt could be a bit thin after this season with Miles Plumlee graduating and Mason Plumlee possibly departing for the NBA.

Jefferson’s college decision could be coming any day now. It was originally speculated that he would release his future plans on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, though Rivals.com’s ACC Basketball Recruiting Analyst Clint Jackson tweeted yesterday that according to Amile’s father, Malcolm Musgrove, an announcement should be expected “between Friday and Monday”. Duke entered the mix for Jefferson a bit later than most schools after it appeared they would not be able to land Lithonia, Georgia Center Tony Parker. Duke extended a scholarship offer to Amile in early January, but it appears Jefferson had his sights set on Duke for quite some time as the Blue Devils have quickly become one of the frontrunners to land him. Duke and NC State are the most competitive players vying for Amile, while he has also received scholarship offers from Kentucky, Ohio State, and Villanova.

Jefferson arrived for an unofficial visit last Saturday, just in time to watch Duke take on Carolina. He had already used up all of his official visits earlier in the recruiting season, before Duke was even in the picture for him. It is reasonable to assume that he stayed in Durham for all of Sunday at least. Amile was much harder to read when he was at Duke for his visit, mostly because the only time I saw him was while he was attending the game. Clearly he was not communicating with any of the current players or coaching staff at the time. However, unlike Muhammad, Duke seemed to be a much more clear-cut favorite for Amile prior to his official visit, so the Cameron Crazies could be well served to have a bit more confidence with him. This was believed to be his last official visit. He also made visits to Ohio State, Kentucky, NC State, and UConn in the fall. It is also reasonable to assume that as he lives in Philadelphia, he was able to see Villanova as well.

Be sure to check back for more on Amile later this week as he reveals his college decision.

JaQuel Richmond
Class of 2014
Wesleyan Christian Academy- High Point, North Carolina
PG- 6’1″, 170 lbs.
#25 by Scout.com, #24 in ESPNU25

Sophomore JaQuel Richmond is only 16 years old, but is already catching the eye of many top college programs across the nation. He has reportedly already received interest from numerous Division I programs, and has received scholarship offers from Charlotte, Oklahoma State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. Most of the larger programs will scout players from their sophomore years on but won’t come on stronger with recruiting pitches until he is at least a junior. Richmond has made himself present at Duke quite a bit this year, however, which can’t be a bad sign. His interest in the program is quite apparent. He attended Countdown To Craziness in October in addition to being on hand for the Duke-Carolina game last weekend. Richmond looks as though he would be a great fit at Duke, who has lacked a true point guard this season since the departure of Nolan Smith. Quinn Cook has looked like the point guard of the future at times, but is still developing. Richmond could potentially learn under Cook during Cook’s senior season before taking the reins for the Blue Devils in the future. However, this is still a very young kid we’re talking about, so it appears to be way too early for speculation.

Theo Pinson
Class of 2014
Wesleyan Christian Academy- High Point, North Carolina
SF- 6’5″, 170 lbs.
#11 by Scout.com, #9 in ESPNU25

Theo Pinson, a teammate of Richmond’s at Wesleyan Christian Academy, also made the trip with him for the Duke-Carolina game. Pinson is currently the more highly touted of the two, having already received 11 scholarship offers by the end of his sophomore year. Duke, Clemson, Connecticut, Georgetown, Kentucky, Marquette, NC State, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech have reportedly all offered him scholarships, and North Carolina is showing interest as well. Pinson possesses the athletic ability that is rarely ever seen in a high school sophomore. He is a dynamic scorer and his freakish leaping ability lends itself well to many highlight reel dunks in transition. He is a rare talent who played at the 17s level in AAU competition when he himself was only in 8th grade. Keep a watch out for this guy as he should continue to develop into one of the top recruits in the country over the next couple of years. Although it is way too early to speculate, Duke appears to be in a good position early for Pinson. It is the only of his eleven scholarship offers listed by Rivals.com where his interest level is denoted as “high”.

For the record, the highlights from this video were all shot during Pinson’s freshman year. Be amazed.

Any thoughts on these recruits? Comment below!

Tales From The Tent: Day 42- Go To Hell Carolina

My fellow Crazies, after a long wait it is finally that time of year- it’s tenting season. I will be bringing you a step by step account of my tenting experience for the next six weeks to give you an inside look at the most sacred tradition at Duke University- tenting.

42 days down
0 to go
12 first year students
1 dream

I’ve never woken up at an indecent hour so easily. My alarm rang at 7:45 and I shot out of bed, somehow energized after just five and a half hours of sleep. It was going to be a long day, but it was a day I had been waiting for my whole life.

The best way to kick off your day (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

The GameDay crew comes to Duke every other year when Duke has the second Duke-Carolina matchup of the year. The broadcast was open to the public, but all tenters needed to attend because that is where their wristbands for the game are distributed. Doors opened at 8:30 and I was eager to get a good spot, so I tried to get over to Cameron as quickly as possible. I arrived just as doors were opening, and was able to snag a nice spot at center court near the back of the student section.

Some awesome signs for College GameDay (photo property of Crazie-Talk)


A live demo from the GameDay crew (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

The broadcast of College GameDay was not exactly what I expected. It was long and tiring- we ended up being in Cameron for over three and a half hours and stood the entire time. It was also surprisingly hard to follow the action of the show. All of the analysts’ backs were to us during the broadcast and it was nearly impossible to hear what they were actually saying. It was our job as the crowd to be energetic and make noise, but sometimes it wasn’t easy because we didn’t know what we were making noise for. Luckily for us having Hubert Davis there made it easy. We knew enough to get as loud as possible every time he spoke so he couldn’t be heard. However, it was really cool to watch the broadcast unfold live before our eyes. The analysts broke down the Duke-Carolina matchup, talked the NCAA tournament bubble, and each drafted their own all-time Duke-UNC team. Unfortunately, Jay Bilas was a bit disappointing. He picked Tyler Hansbrough with the last pick in the Duke-UNC draft and later picked Carolina as the team more likely to win a national championship.

I know a wristband doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is. (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

After GameDay was over, all of the tenters went over to Wallace Wade Stadium to receive our wristbands. We sat in the stands as line monitors checked our name off of the roster one last time. They distributed the wristbands to us and we officially had entry to the Duke-Carolina game. After the wristband distribution we stopped in the IM Gym on the way out where we picked up our free K-Ville 2012 T-shirts.

Tenters then had the next few hours off before it was time to get ready for the game. I grabbed lunch with a few friends, went back to my room and packed for spring break, called my parents, and took a quick nap to energize. Before I knew it, it was time to head back to K-Ville. It was game time.

K-Ville pre-game aka painting central (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

We arrived at K-Ville just before 4:00 to begin our preparation. This meant paint, and lots of it. Now everybody has their own painting style, but just about every single student attending the game adorned themselves in some sort of paint. Some people go for the no shirt spell out a word painting, other people go for full face, while some prefer to leave it at facial designs.

Some excellent face-painting courtesy of Tent 14 (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

The best part about this game was that it gave Duke students the opportunity to show off their creativity. Over the course of the afternoon we saw just about every style of painting, as well as some very interesting uses of hair gel. This hour was a great time for the Cameron Crazies to congregate and share their mutual excitement for the game. The media was out in force, as photographers and videographers made the rounds through K-Ville seeing all Duke’s fans had to offer. Around 5:00 we heard the all too familiar drone of the line monitors’ siren. No, this wasn’t another tent check, it was time for us to get in line.

A little full-body painting courtesy of Tent 14 (photo property of Crazie-Talk)


Tent 14 ready for action (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

We snapped a quick tent photo in front of the tent, and headed off to find our spot in line. We walked forward along the sidewalk, passing countless tents until we finally found our spot near the front of the line, right between Tents 13 and 15. The next half hour seemed to drag on forever, but it served as a time for some reflection on our tenting experience. It was the first time in a while our entire tent had been together, and it was surreal to me that we were about to walk into the Carolina game. We had been working tirelessly for six weeks to make it to this moment, but it was unbelievable to think that in just a few short hours this entire experience would come to an end.

My view for the Carolina game. Not bad. (photo property of Crazie-Talk)

At the stroke of 5:30 the doors opened. They began to let the first tents in. It was time to go. The line creeped forward for what seems like hours. Turns out it was only a couple of minutes, but before we knew it I was taking the same walk I had taken for every other home game this year, up the sidewalk into Cameron Indoor Stadium. I swiped in and sprinted inside to stake out the best possible spot to stand. I had spent much of my time in line contemplating which part of the court I would choose to stand by if I had to make a choice. I imagined that I would probably have a choice between standing in the second row at one end of the court between the foul line and baseline or moving back to the third row and staking out a spot near center court. When I walked into Cameron the scene looked just as I had envisioned. I had a choice to make, and went with my gut. I figured it would be best to be as close to halfcourt as possible, so I took a spot in the third row right along the halfcourt line.

As students continued to pack the student section to the brim, the anticipation for the game mounted. Both teams came out for pregame warmups, which meant plenty of time to heckle Carolina players and try and get the attention of Duke players. We also got a glimpse of Duke’s future when Rasheed Sulaimon appeared from the tunnel, and was hopefully accompanied by two more future Blue Devils in Bishop Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad and Friends Central’s Amile Jefferson. As the moments ticked down and Carolina left the court for the final time, Duke had it’s Senior Night ceremony for its lone senior member, Miles Plumlee.

Nothing says energy like Dick Vitale crowd surfing (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

As the game tipped off, all of the energy pent up from six weeks of tenting just flowed out of me. It was by far the loudest I had ever heard Cameron. I’m not going to waste time giving a synopsis of the game in this story. We all know what happened. North Carolina was simply a bigger team and dominated Duke on the glass in the first half en route to a 32-15 rebounding advantage. Duke simply wasn’t knocking down shots during the first 10 minutes of the game, allowing Carolina to get out to a 22-5 lead after Duke had a stretch where they missed 15 straight field goal attempts. After that, the teams kept pace in terms of their scoring. Only problem was, the Blue Devils were playing from a 20-point deficit. Duke came out with significantly better energy in the second half and were poised to make a run, pulling the game to within 11 points with five minutes remaining. Austin Rivers took a trip to the line for one and one with the chance to pull Duke within nine, but he missed the front end. This proved to be crucial, as Carolina was barely able to grasp momentum away from Duke and cruise to an 18-point win.

Miles Plumlee addressing the crowd after the game (photo courtesy of DukeBluePlanet.com)

After the game, the team paid tribute to Miles Plumlee, who played one of the best games of his season despite battling foul trouble. He scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds despite playing just 26 minutes. He fouled out as the game wound down, exiting to a standing ovation from the home crowd. After the game, a video of his accomplishments was played in his honor and Miles took the opportunity to address the crowd following the loss. He expressed how incredibly thankful he was for his four years here. He then thanked his parents, who received a rousing applause for supplying Duke with not one, but three Plumlees (and getting half-joking chants of “one more kid” from the Crazies). Miles concluded his speech by saying that although the loss hurts, this isn’t the end, it’s only just the beginning of Duke’s postseason run.

So that was it. There would be no burning of the benches, no storming the court, no last second magic or championship banners, just one final walk out of Cameron Indoor Stadium back to Tent 14. We all hung around and sat outside the tent for a few minutes after the game, taking in the scene one last time. They say that there’s nothing like experiencing things for the first time during your freshman year, and over these six weeks we really saw it all. The end result stung a little bit, but you show up ready for battle regardless of whether you win by 20 or you lose by 20. That’s what Cameron Crazies do. Another chapter of the sport’s greatest rivalry is in the books, but the real season is about to begin. It’s tournament time, and I’m really hoping we get another shot at Carolina in the ACC championship. GTHC.

Be sure to check out the rest of Dan’s tenting diary! Links galore below:

Pre-tenting: It Begins
Day 1: Welcome to K-Ville
Day 2: From Dusk ‘Til Dawn
Day 4/5: Into The Storm
Day 7: Losing Momentum
Day 9: The Other Side of Duke Basketball
Day 12/13/14: You Win Some, You Lose Some
Day 15: The First Taste
Day 18: Insanity
Day 26: When One Comeback Isn’t Enough
Day 29/30: I’ve Been Dreaming Of A White Tenting
Day 35/36: Taking Out The Trash
Day 40: It Gets Personal
Day 41: One Force, One Fight
Day 42: Go To Hell Carolina