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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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This was a Duke team in name only
The Blue Devils are ousted in uncharacteristically quick fashion.
By GARY SHELTON
Published March 9, 2007
[Times photo: Brian Cassella]
N.C. State's Brandon Costner reacts in the final seconds to the upset of Duke. Costner led the Wolfpack with 30 points.
TAMPA - Poor Duke.
Poor, poor Duke.
Let's chuck the Blue Devils on the shoulder. Let's tousle their hair. Let's give them a ribbon for trying really hard, the way competitions often do for the less gifted teams among us.
Poor, poor Duke.
In a game that will tickle and amuse a conference, if not an entire nation, the Duke Blue Devils were bounced out of the ACC tournament Thursday night. As quick as you can say Krzyzewski - heck, as quick as you can say Mikey - the Blue Devils were shown the door by North Carolina State. As the common folks say, one. And furthermore, done.
That was Duke?
That bunch of jump-shooters who kept watching N.C. State's players flash past them to the basket was Duke? That was the program that had won seven of the previous eight ACC tournament championships? That was the team that had won 23 of its previous 24 tournament games? That was the team that was so darned good you just hated the sight of them?
Thursday night's defeat was stunning. It was like watching one of those riches-to-rags movies where a prince wakes up one day and finds out he has to start rethatching roofs for a living, only this time, Duke went to sleep and woke up as USF. Duke lost on a Thursday? Before this tournament, it was uncertain if Duke even knew the ACC tournament played on Thursdays.
From the looks of it, it's amazing the Blue Devils weren't eliminated on Wednesday. They had no idea how to stop Brandon Costner, perhaps because they were mesmerized by the tomato-colored sports coat of coach Sidney Lowe.
The best thing you can say about the Blue Devils' performance is this: At least this time, they didn't hit anyone at the end of the game. Considering that N.C. State still had its starters on the floor, it was considerable restraint.
For some time, it has been obvious this is not a Duke team to make you forget about Grant Hill and Shane Battier and Christian Laettner. Still, this is Duke, and because of namebrand alone, there was a feeling the Blue Devils might make a run at the title. Don't they always?
Instead, it was obvious that at No. 21 in the country, the Dukies were overrated. They lack that single great player who can lift those around him. They lack muscle. They lack anyone interested in playing a lick of defense.
Oh, if you are honest, you have seen this Duke team before. When you saw it, however, the score was usually 78-51 and there was about a buck-thirty left in the game. That's when Krzyzewski would point his reserves to the floor, and you would notice that they were young and promising and had great offensive skills, but that they had a way to go before they were ripe.
These days, those are Duke's starters. Yeah, there is some potential there, but who in the heck ever looked at Duke and thought about potential? For a long time, Duke's has been a program about production.
Not lately, though. Consider this: Florida State won Thursday. Miami won Thursday. Duke lost.
Then again, could you really expect the Dukies to keep up with the powers from Coppertone Road?
Things are kind of tough at the country club, in other words. It isn't so much that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes, he's also not playing any defense.
Suddenly, the Duke basketball team plays D very much like the Duke football team. For instance, the Wolfpack hit 54.6 percent of its shots in the first half Thursday night. In the second half, after making adjustments, it hit 62.5 percent.
"We knew we were not a great basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "We never have been this season. But we've been a very good basketball team."
Oh, maybe it's Tampa Bay's fault. We seem to bring out the worst of the Duke program, don't we? Back in '98, Duke lost to Kentucky in a regional in St. Pete. A year later, a team regarded as one of the best in the history of the program lost the championship to UConn. Now this. You get the feeling Krzyzewski won't sign on as the pitchman for Busch Gardens anytime soon.
As for the rest of the ACC, well, it might be ready to vote for Tampa Bay as a permanent site for the tournament. North Carolina might open a local campus.
At least, that would have happened in the old days, back when Duke was a force. You remember, back when they were the designated team to hate.
When you think about it, hate isn't so bad.
It beats pity every time.
Gary Shelton can be reached at (727) 893-8805.
10 Years since Duke lost its first game in the tournament, also the last time it wasn't in the final.
23-1 Record for the Blue Devils in past eight ACC tournaments before Thursday.