Friday, March 2, 2007

Duke vs. Carolina – the Anti-climax


Patrick Kendall

So this is what it all comes down to...nothing but bragging rights in state. No national status is at stake here, no real standings in the ACC, no opportunity to leap frog the other and secure a top seed in the conference. It’s been a long time since, as my good friend just put it, Duke and Carolina were both coming off losses going into both of their conference games creating a more deflated opinion of themselves across the basketball landscape.

All year long you could see that Duke was playing the same way I ski, which is to say, that along the run they were headed for a crash at least four times. The fact that they really only stumbled in two big stretches (so far) simply means they got lucky (wish I could have said the same on the slopes myself). Anyway, most people would agree that somewhere about mid-season, Duke began getting the benefit of their history when it came to rankings, but no one really believed that they were one of the Top 25 for nearly the entire year (though it was the only thing I could hold over Bob the Terp’s head – until the sweep. Now I have a nice drawing of a turtle holding a broom on my whiteboard. The art sucks but the message was still clear. Damn!).

Carolina has also benefited from over hyping and now we’re seeing the true fruits of their over ranking as well. It took longer but for the most part there should be no surprise. They are too young to really be a great basketball team; plus they play piss pour defense and can’t make quality stops at key points in the game; therefore they leave themselves vulnerable in tight games. So, vanity from the UNC and Duke camps this year has led us to eerily similar situations: seasons that fail to meet expectations from either side.

Of course, both teams are going to the NCAAs this year but that is somewhat diminished by the lack of importance of this last meeting from a national standpoint. Truthfully, outside of the regular Duke/Carolina faithful who could give a rat’s ass about this one? In a way, I’m more disappointed with UNC only because I still believe that their losses are a result of a deficiency in their execution or preparation. They either don’t rebound well, or they don’t hustle after the ball, or they choose not to play defense – something that could be remedied by every bad basketball player’s greatest weapon – effort.

Duke is easier to diagnose. They will play hard every night (with the exception of the first Maryland game) but just don’t have the legs to compete for a full forty minutes. They are a true middle of the pack ACC team this year (ouch!) but you can’t really overcome talent issues if the other team plays AS hard (or harder, i.e. Maryland – sonsab*tches).

So we roll into Sunday in a kind of pre-post-season malaise on both sides. Carolina’s loss to Georgia Tech is another UNC example the better team allowing the worse team to set the pace and dictate the level of effort while the same can NOT be said of the Maryland/Duke game. There, the painful fact is that Maryland is the better team. They may also be better than UNC and you can chalk it all up to having a handful of upperclassmen that refuse to go out quietly so they play harder. It’s that simple.

The good news is that it still is a Duke/Carolina game and thus we (the true fans) know that the game itself still holds the allure of a possible “great” game. So we’ll all be excited to see if that materializes.

The bad (and shocking) news is that we (the true fans) are the only ones who care about this game at this point because there is no need for the rest of the nation to watch.

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