Thursday, March 23, 2006

Duke bites the dust

Kudos to Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated who picked this from the day NCAA Tourney pairings were announced: LSU shocked Duke tonight, knocking the Blue Devils out of the NCAA Tourney 62-54. Here's what's REALLY shocking about the win: (1) LSU holding Duke to 54; (2) LSU holding JJ Redick to 11 on 3-18 shooting; (3) LSU committing 18 turnovers and prevailing; (4) Big Baby Davis hitting an underwhelming 3-11 from the floor.

More shock: radio play-by-play dingus Brad Sham asking the LSU point guard if Duke was the best defensive team LSU had played this year. Hey Brad! LSU just shut down the player of the year in college hoops and limited his team, which had not scored less than 70 since the first game of the year, to a paltry 54 -- stop talking up Duke and start kissing some Bayou Bengal behind!

The problem for Duke was the same as it's been all year: lack of quality depth. Shelden Williams went nuts for most of the game (23 points, 12 rebounds) but when he went quiet Duke had no answer thanks to Redick's struggles. And this Duke team had the same problem every Duke team since 2001 has had: lack of interior toughness. Duke actually had a rebounding advantage early in the second half . . . and ended up with 36 to LSU's 46.

For four of the past five years, Duke has honked in the Sweet 16. In three of those four years, Duke was the #1 seed and lost to a lower seed ('02 = 5-seed Indiana; '05= 5-seed Michigan State). LSU had a combination of Michigan State and Indiana -- athletic shot blockers (IU '02) AND powerful interior players (MSU '05).

For LSU, this augurs well. Since 2000, the last four teams to beat Duke in the Sweet 16 have gone to the Final Four ('00 Florida; '02 Indiana; '03 Kansas; '05 MSU).

Now how ridiculous does Andy Katz's argument all but equating Coach K's nine-year Sweet 16 run with Coach Wooden's seven-straight titles look? From The Monk's perspective, very.

[N.B. -- Redick scored 11, not nine as I originally wrote. The post has since been corrected].

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