Last night, the North Carolina Tar Heels put the finishing touches on a brilliant season by defeating the Michigan State Spartans 89-72. The Tar Heels ran out to an early and impressive lead using clinical precision in dissecting the Spartan defenses. Point guard Ty Lawson led a dynamic inside-out scoring approach. At halftime, UNC led 55-34. The game’s outcome was probably decided long before that. The win capped an impressive season that was punctuated, prior to this season’s tournament, with a 101-87 thrashing of Duke at Cameron.
“A Little Bit Louder Now…”
The Tar Heels won the national championship for the second time in the last five years. Roy Williams is, now, the King of Tobacco Road. Each year, UNC has the most talented roster in the nation. Each year, they have players with the capacity to jump early to the NBA. In this moment, Roy Williams has figured out a way to keep those players in the fold long enough to win it all.
Duke has been winning conference titles. UNC has been winning national titles. The disparity in talent is clear. Coach K is aging and has had challenges with his health. According to rivalshoops.com, Duke’s incoming recruiting class is only ranked 15th in the nation. UNC is ranked #2 — behind the Memphis Tigers who are no longer coached by John Calipari.
Is Duke basketball on the edge of falling from the elite? Are the Dukies done?
In some circles, this question could be considered absurd.
- Duke just won their 8th ACC title in 11 years.
- The Blue Devils were a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
- Duke IS still an elite national program.
Then again, maybe the question isn’t so crazy.
- Duke hasn’t won a national championship since 2001. That wasn’t all that long ago, but the legacy of deep annual tournament runs is fading.
- This year, Duke was ousted from the tournament by a lower-seeded Villanova Wildcat team, 77-54.
- In 2007, Duke lost in the 2nd round to West Virginia.
- In 2006, Duke lost in the first round to Virginia Commonwealth and Eric Maynor.
- In 2005, a 32-3 Duke team lost in the Sweet 16 to LSU.
- In 2004, they lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State.
- 2003 was the last Final Four run by Duke. It was also the last time that Duke swept the season series with UNC. Since that season, UNC is 7-3 versus Duke.
Which way is Duke headed? Can we expect more of the same? How much more does Coach K have to give? It’s not going to surprise anyone if the 15th ranked recruiting class in the nation doesn’t have tremendous NCAA success. It’s still early and there is time to improve the ranking, but it looks like the rest of the nation has already caught up to Duke. More importantly, in the ACC where the only real competition is North Carolina (with occasional challenges from Maryland), the Tar Heels appear to have Duke in their rear view mirror — and objects are not as close as they appear.