Back in January I said:
I hereby issue my expectation that Duke will end their season with nothing short of an NCAA title. Great teams answer that call.
I guess no one picked up the phone tonight. And I am pissed.
I saw most of the game, but needed to consult the box score to confirm a few things:
1. Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas never fouled out, despite having 4 fouls each for a good chunk of the second half. Those guys played like fouling machines at times; why doesn't Duke ever indulge them? (Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus did foul out for Duke.)
2. J.J. Redick played 39 minutes. What was the point of that? To create more shots for him to miss? He isn't accomplishing much on either end; why leave him in?
3. LSU outscored Duke 31-27 in both halves. I know each half tells a story, but this one seemed a bit redundant. It was clear from the first half that Duke's standard lobs inside were getting deflected by LSU's incredible leapers. In fact, the only shots Duke got inside were iffy. I was watching some of the Bradley-Memphis game and noticed how open the half court looked in comparison. I know that LSU only had 5 players defending, so what happened? They seemed to know what Duke was up to. Why couldn't Duke adjust?
The problem with this game, and the season in general, is Mike Krzyzewski. For whatever reason -- stubbornness, pressure on behalf of the seniors, being stretched too thin -- he never adjusted. Last year's loss to Michigan State was understandable; they just didn't have the personnel. This year they did. They had depth. They had capable athletes on scholarship who were eligible to play.
I know the standard Duke fan rationalizations and defenses, so save it. Yes, he's won 3 titles and I've won none. Yes, he runs a clean program and complicated system. Yes, not every freshman is expected to contribute immediately. So what? The reserves have had an entire season of practice to learn some basics and not look like fools out there. Besides, they know what to do with a basketball in their hands. Would it be polished Duke-caliber basketball? No. But the starters, save Shelden Williams, didn't play at that level tonight either. Throw them in, invite LSU's big men to pick up their fifth fouls, and we'd have a game. But no, Duke ran out of gas. Which is pathetic, since they had a spare tank.
Look, Mike Krzyzewski is a great coach, probably the best in the sport. But he's not infallible, and Duke fans need to stop treating him like he is. It's time for the kid gloves to come off.
Last week I suggested to a fellow alum that, if I were advising this team, I would set aside one assistant coach (say, Chris Collins) and have him spend a little extra time with raw freshmen Martynas Pocius, Jamal Boykin, and Eric Boateng with the sole purpose of training them to play against Connecticut. That's it. If we played the Huskies for the title, they'd step up. If not, no harm done.
As it turned out, Duke was the team that slipped up early. I knew LSU was capable of outhustling and outplaying the Blue Devils. Though the Tigers played like sloppy underclassmen at times, that fear materialized. But a deeper, darker fear also came to pass: Mike Krzyzewski was outcoached. By John Brady.
Let that sink in over the offseason.