Even when they were the number 1 overall seed in 2006, Duke couldn’t muster a winning margin like last night. You have to go back to the Final Four season of 2004 against Seton Hall to find a larger one. Not the it matters how much you win by as long as you win, but Duke dissected its opponent all game long and for the first time in a long time came away with a decisive tournament victory.
Duke was coming into this tournament a different team as in years past, and last night Duke proved that it has a slew of talented players that can contribute. And in this tournament, you need your stars to do their thing and the role players to contribute when needed.
Duke had six players in double figures. That shows how efficient offensively Duke was, and no matter how well the other team shoots, it is usually a good sign that things are going good. They played an early tournament game like the past Duke teams so famously do. Come in with a business like approach, and just play your type of basketball. There were little smiles from the Duke players during the game, because they knew they belonged here and when an easy basket came they did their business. This is what you like to see out of a top seed team. There was no overlooking inferior opponents this year. Duke played loose and free. And the occasional mistake was corrected quickly.
Binghamton had the much smaller team and Duke exploited it. 35-18 was the rebounding margin. And Lance Thomas had a field day scoring 14 points on 5-5 shooting.
The big three didn’t have their greatest game, but the pressure really wasn’t there either. They took shots when they had them and deferred when they didn’t. They really didn’t force it, and never hurt the team. They were a combined 10-29 from the field, but 5-13 from three even with Gerald going 0-3 from long range.
Binghamton had a very nice shooting day, but Duke still was able to win by 20+. The reason was 25 trips to the free stripe and Binghamton only with 5. The refs might of handed Duke most of these as they were in the bonus early in the first, but still something you like to see.
Duke now moves on with that same confidence they came into the tournament with. Texas is going to be a tough opponent. This team really took apart Minnesota, and has a great collection of players that they rely on. Duke will have to play at a high level to compete, and the big three will have to be clicking this go around. The combo of Smith/Williams will be a huge factor against the sharp-shooting Abrams.
But it simply comes down to “win and you move on, lose and you go home”. It is time for Duke to step up and continue to prove how good they really are.