Davidson didn't do itself any favors by advancing to the Elite Eight last year.
Lofty expectations were inherited, and a target has been put on Stephen Curry's back that he can't shake off.
Magic in March is different than magic in January. The Wildcats might beat a top-ranked team in the Big Dance, but it's a whole lot tougher to do it in the regular season. We saw it tonight as Duke trounced Davidson 79-67.
Duke's athleticism has been evident for the last two months, but it has really shone in two specific games for Duke (13-1, 1-0 ACC): Against Purdue and against Davidson.
The Blue Devils kept E'Twuan Moore scoreless until the game against the Boilermakers was out of hand, and kept Curry in single-digits in the first half. Though he finished with his season average of 29 points, he didn't starting pouring it in until bored, uninterested fans switched over to the Discovery Channel.
Don't get me wrong, I love Curry and I think he's a great player. But if the game was close the whole time, he would have been about as open as Bill O'Reilly's mind.
Duke's defense is very good, but they specialize in terrorizing teams without many solid scoring options.
Curry was most effective in transition and when he put the ball on the floor. He was 1-8 from long range.
Duke performed well on the glass, and took advantage of its size on the offensive boards, which really helped them out when they went cold from the field as Davidson (10-3, 3-0 Southern) made a second-half run.
Tonight wasn't about a basketball game, though. It was about Curry, and in some regards, Kyle Singler. Singler and Jon Scheyer both finished with 22 for Duke.
As for the heavily-marketed and highly-anticipated announcer switch, I was left with much to desire.
Mike Tirico did a great job with the play-by-play, but analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson seemed extremely out of their element. Rather than doing their normal job—analyzing—they too often digressed into NBA talk.
We know the rules are different in the NBA. We know NBA players are better than college players (there were way too many travels). You don't need to keep telling us.
There were some awkward silences in the first half before they found their groove. Dead air is effective at times (see: Christian Laettner turnaround jumper)—but the first half of a January college basketball game isn't one of those times.
Heather Cox could have done a better prep job. Everybody in the world knows how to pronounce Curry's first name. She botched it on her first try. Yeah, I'm nitpicking now, but if I signed her paychecks, I'd expect her to get it right. Broadcast Journalism students are feelin' me now.
My last criticism of the crew is easily forgivable. The change of scenery was so publicized it was more of a circus than another day at the office. At times it seemed the guys were just screwing around, rather than doing their jobs. Van Gundy was giving Tirico hell for being a Syracuse homer (he was giving Paulus excessive love), and Tirico's comeback was a shot at Nazareth College.
Similar instances happened throughout the game, and though it took away from the game at times, I completely understand. They're used to a corporate, professional atmosphere, and they had been displaced to a college campus in Durham, North Carolina where tents are already pitched as students are waiting to get tickets for a game five weeks away.
I can't blame them for having fun. At least it's not Joe Buck calling the game. He wouldn't have done a Dickie V impression (thank you, Mark Jackson).
Final thoughts: This isn't the first time Steph Curry has faced Duke. It's not the second time he's faced Duke.
It's just the first time everyone was making a spectacle out of it. The kid can handle the pressure, and can lead his team a few games deep in March again this year.
Duke needs to turn the ball over less if it wants to flourish in ACC play. Davidson is looking at a hot 20-0 in the Southern Conference this season, and should get the auto-bid into the Big Dance.
Even if the Wildcats drop a couple conference games, they should be a lock for the NCAA Tourney based on name recognition alone.
It's all about the Benjamin’s, baby.