Monday, March 5, 2007

The End of the Duke/Carolina Debate


Patrick Kendall


Now we know. Even Coach K said it.

Carolina is the better team. All the excitement, all the hype, all the taunting and all the conjecture can no longer hide that fact.

Duke vs. Carolina ’07 is in the books and the year belongs to the Heels (though Maryland really has the last laugh from that standpoint — they are the best team in North Carolina -- from Maryland).

But that said, I was happy to see that Duke did not go out without a final parting shot. For the whiners out there who cried “cheap shot” at Henderson’s foul on Mansbrough, I can’t deny that it didn’t reek a little bit of frustration on the part of my man Gerald, but anyone who has ever been part of an historic rivalry that dates back to the 1920s (I’m sure that there are a lot of us nodding in experienced understanding right now) is likely to get a little bit frustrated when coming out on the losing end of the rivalry two times in a row. Mansbrough isn’t hurt; Henderson gets a suspension so let’s get over it and move on.

As for my analysis of the game post facto, it’s pretty simple: too much Mansbrough and Lawson (and every one else from Carolina’s side – seemed like everyone contributed yesterday) and not enough Duke defense. Looking at the box score for Duke, their normal guys played well. Paulus and Henderson were great, Scheyer, Nelson good, and McRoberts played a statistically sound game (save for a pile of nasty turnovers that put them in a hole early). What deserted them this Sunday was stops on the defensive end.

Lawson drove at will; Mansbrough was an animal; Terry got free for a couple spot up threes; back door cuts were available; Wright got to the rim whenever he needed to. None of these things were a surprise to Duke and therefore they should have been more ready for them. Coach K has gone against Roy Boy enough times to know what to look for so I contend that Duke’s offense was not the issue (necessarily) and for only about the third time this season, they could not rely on their defense (the sixth man?) to help them control the pace.

That said, you have to give all that credit to UNC, which employed another great game plan and then executed it nearly flawlessly (makes me wonder how they can lose to G. Tech and NC State when they play like this – but I guess that’s water under the bridge at this point). Lawson shredded Duke’s man-to-man and found guys open all around the rim. It’s the easiest way to beat a team (any team) without shot blockers so kudos the Heels.

What I think is such a shame is that they basically backed into a regular season title thanks to UVA's loss, even though I can't imagine anyone outside of Charlottesville (that's a city in Virginia for you Carolina folks who don't keep up with geography beyond the Research Triangle) actually believing UVA is the better team.

Of course that’s just sour grapes on my part. Were this Duke in the same predicament I’d happily take the “back in” method to winning championships.

So, a toast to Roy Boy Williams and his merry band of Tar Heels. Congratulations on a season that was probably a little disappointing considering early season hype and some of the losses incurred (I can’t just hand out compliments – that is my “back hand” method).

The ACC Tourney starts Thursday and Duke will be playing. I predict that they will win that opening game then fall on Friday. UNC doesn’t play until noon on Friday and will most likely line up against Maryland. I NEED UNC to win this game. Bob the Terp is on a nasty roll here at the office and someone needs to slap him down. To Hell with the Shell! Who’s with me?

In conclusion, this was not exactly the year of the Blue Devil and its too early to tell if the Tar Heels can bring the Championship Trophy back to ACC country.

But I’ve got my ticket to Atlanta just in case.

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