Despite monster games from two captains, Duke was unable to stop the nothing to lose mentality of the VCU Rams. Duke loses in the first round for the first time since 1996, and puts an end to what has been a very tough year for the Blue Bloods of college basketball.
Coming into the tournament, Duke had no momentum. They lost three in a row, and were bounced in the first round of the ACC tournament. That lack of momentum was just one of the reasons that Duke was the first higher seed to lose on the first day of the tournament.
Eric Maynor was talked up all week as being the best player of the VCU roster. He didn’t disappoint as his team high 22 points, two of them the game winner, helped the Rams pull of the upset. Everyone on the VCU squad came to play, and were hustling on every single possession. The pressure they applied to Paulus, the entire game, was forcing Duke to turnover the ball much like they have done all season. VCU had six players with 8 points or more. Five with 10 or more. And the CAA conference continues sending great teams to the tournament.
Duke had leads of 6 or more many times throughout the game. However, VCU never looked dead. Duke has had the inability to close out games all year, and this was no different. VCU’s great three point shooting kept it close enough for them to wait to pounce. When the opportunity came they took it.
Duke looked tired on the floor in the second half. This season has drained them physically and emotionally, and it showed. Late in the game, countless free throws were off the front of the rim, which is a clear sign of fatigue. Duke at times looked like they just wanted to pack off for the year, and move on. They got their wish, and will have to spend a whole off season wondering what the future will hold for each of them.
McRoberts and Paulus put up captain-type numbers, but the lack of team play was what done the Devils in. Paulus was unable to rally the troops, and convince them all the play as one. The lack of any scoring from other than McRoberts and Paulus is unacceptable.
The good news is, is that the whole team has room for improvement. No one is even close to their ceiling. However, it will be a long off-season waiting to see the Blue Devils again.
*In a few days you can check out my season in review for the Blue Devils.