March Madness Shows Duke Extremely Mad
~ Amy Lignor
Okay…there are teams that are rated as the top, the best, the Mona Lisa’s of basketball. However, in a very short time period of March Madness, some teams have also proven to be teams that should not, perhaps, have gotten such high ratings after all. Yes, having a good overall season is what brings you to the top. But when your fans are beyond excited and ‘know’ in their hearts that with their team’s great season must come a great ending (or at least enough of an ending that makes them worthy of their high ranking), screwing up early on is a punch in the face.
Although some people spoke about the Seahawks becoming stars in the NFL this past year, the triumphant experts were still standing behind a Broncos or Patriots Super Bowl played against the 49ers throughout much of the early season play. Well, that was almost seen, but the Seahawks claimed the Lombardi trophy with skill, determination and, what some consider, players who own a whole lot of poor taste.
When it comes to the world of basketball, as we all know there is also poor taste, but rarely when it comes to the collegiate masses. And this year, thus far, has been interesting when it comes to national whining. The regular names have been up in the spotlight going into the playing field, and experts have already called the women’s championship done and over, with the UCONN Huskies taking it all. But…I wouldn’t be so quick off the mark.
It was just a few days ago that one of the hottest teams walked onto a court the 3rd-seed and walked out seriously surprised losers. Joanne P. McCallie is the coach of the Duke women; her team’s tournament seed, even though her team played the toughest schedule, placed them in the same region as the unbeatable, supposedly, powerhouse that is the Connecticut women. This is the second time in four years that this has happened.
Duke is Number 3 (was, actually), and the Coach was thinking just a few short days ago that if her team and the Number 1 seeded Huskies both won their first three NCAA Tournament games they’d meet in regional finals with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The Blue Devils Coach didn’t think that was at all fair.
The actual comment made by the coach was: “What, are we trying to do, keep Duke out of the Final Four?” Not exactly a supportive pat on the back to the team that had the most difficult schedule this year. Now…perhaps this was a pep talk in a way for Duke. After all, if they were to lose to UCONN, they could always shrug it off as the match-up being completely wrong because of seed placement.
Duke has never lost in the first round in the nineteen NCAA Tournament appearances they have racked up, so…it must have been a real slap in the face for a team so dynamic and beloved when they had to read the headline: No. 14 Mercer shocks No. 3 Duke in HUGE NCAA tournament upset.
This was not a pretty game. Looking at it, actually, it makes no sense that Duke lost. Mercer was out-rebounded by nine, and the team did not score any first ‘second-chance’ points until very late in the second half of the game. But Mercer did have a strategy even if Duke, as well as the fans watching, did not actually see it. By taking away the court and leaving Duke with ONLY distant jump shots to win the game, this 14th (never going to get by the first round) seeded team knocked out the No. 3 Blue Devils. This is the first time Mercer has gotten to the NCAA tournament since 1985 – and if they do not go to the end – which is unlikely they will not at this moment (but anything can happen), they have most certainly proven to one and all that they are a team to be reckoned with.
It was also a come-uppance to Duke as they learned a valuable lesson: Taking the time out to whine about UCONN being a massive contender and not noticing that there are other teams to get through before ever playing UCONN to begin with, was a huge mistake.
Until Next Time,