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March Madness: VCU Beats Duke

By hagrin - Posted on 16 March 2007

The upsets were bound to happen, but did it have to happen to my team?

As everyone knows, I'm as big of a Duke homer as there is. Throughout the day I knew that with the lack of upsets that a big one was coming during the night session. Duke, even after being up double digits in the second half (again!), lost on a jump shot by Maynor with 1.8 seconds as the VCU Rams upset the #6 seed Blue Devils. Where as with most of the games I give you just a short overview as to what happened, I have a lot of thoughts about this game.

First, I can't fault the effort - the effort was there last night from McRoberts and Paulus. However, for as good as they played you could only sit there as a Duke fan and think that you didn't get nearly enough from two McDonalds All-Americans. McRoberts had 4 inches on anyone that was guarding him all night long and more athleticism and really should have went for more than the 20+ he had, but you can't fault him because he was rebounding and controlling the paint by himself. Coach K, instead of trying to make the other team play his pace, fell right into VCU's hands and played an undersized 4 all night long to try and play as quick as VCU which meant McRoberts was the only big man on the floor for Duke at times. McRoberts had such a good game that not only did Duke lose this game, but they may have lost McRoberts to the NBA draft next year. If they don't replace McRoberts with Patterson next year, Duke may have a very long season next year.

As for Greg Paulus, what else can you say. I killed him earlier this year and, as if he read my article, has played extremely well since that point. Last night, Greg dropped a career high 25 points, but it still wasn't enough as he couldn't stay in front of Maynor on the defensive end. Unfortunately, in a man-to-man defensive system, Paulus is always going to be a major liability with his below-average foot speed and less than impressive height. The only problem is he was recruited at this size and speed and if you're unwilling to change the system, you have to question why you recruited him. How many times does a Duke team have to be beat by a more athletic backcourt being able to penetrate to the rim at will before either the recruits change or the system changes?

As for the rest of the team, well, I just hope that some of the promising bench talent doesn't transfer. It's possible that you could see Pocius, Thomas and Zubek all transfer out of Duke for a lack of playing time.

As for the game, there were a few turning points. First, late in the game DeMarcus Nelson (who really had a terrible end of the season) drove the lane and never looked to pass while throwing up a floater that missed. Only problem with that play was that you could see Josh sitting on the baseline looking for the lob pass which never came. Instead, McRoberts is pushed in the back and misses a free throw so you end up with one point that possession instead of two. Next, the missed free throws killed Duke again. Paulus, who did have 25 points, missed 3 straight near the end of the game which is unacceptable for a captain point guard who is supposedly a good free throw shooter. Next, was there any doubt that Duke was going to lose that game when Nelson rushed down the court to score and leave too much time on the clock? Sure, you can't pull it out there because you're losing, but you just knew that Maynor, who was penetrating at will, was going to be able to get his own shot. Although all of these points make it sound as if Duke played awfully, Duke was up double digits in the second half and let yet another huge lead turn into a last second heartbreaking loss.

It was tough being a Duke fan this year and I fear that next year is not going to be much better.