And then there’s Duke, somehow steamrolling to another one seed March 11.
In 2010, Purdue was locked in as the final top seed until Robby Hummel tore his ACL Feb. 24 in Minneapolis; Duke quietly took the final number one seed for March Madness, somehow was clandestinely given a cakewalk draw, and hung on to take the national title when Gordon Hayward’s desperation shot hit the rim April 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium. I was at the game, and support Butler, but Duke played even up with a “mid-major” for their first title in a decade. (The Blue Devils beat a banged-up West Virginia team, playing without its two best players, in the national semifinals 48 hours prior.)
In 2011, Duke was ranked #1 deep into January, then lost to unranked Florida State, St. John’s, and two of their final three games (non-tourney Virginia Tech and UNC). Like this year, the ACC was a weak conference; Duke lacked quality road wins; had questionable losses, yet somehow “propelled” themselves to a questionable one seed after winning three games in the meaningless ACC tourney. The Blue Devils were quickly demolished by a one-man Arizona team in the Sweet 16 a fortnight later. They were not worthy a one seed.
When Austin Rivers hit the game winning shot in Chapel Hill Feb. 8th, Duke was at its low point of the season. Coming off home losses to sloppy Florida State and enigmatic Miami, the Blue Devils were getting ripped by rival North Carolina before the freshman’s three pointer capped a furious late comeback. If the shot missed, Duke would’ve fallen out of the Top 10 and was staring a 3 seed (at best) in the NCAA Tournament.
Instead, as soon as Rivers’ shot ripped through the net, I could see the jump in the polls (voters ignored the struggles and bumped Duke to a #5 ranking) and the momentum rising on the horizon, blessed by soft scheduling. Even with a weak ACC, Duke struggled mightily to survive at home against non-tourney N.C. State and awful Virginia Tech, just as they had earlier this season at bottom-dwelling Georgia Tech. Number one seeds in March Madness don’t need 40-45 minutes to hold off inferior teams.
wow, journalistic integrity..clearly not from DSPN