Lehigh vs. Duke: Blue Devils Must Change Offensive Approach
This was an upset that never should have happened.
No, this wasn't one of those vintage Duke rosters destined for March success, but a major advantage was there for the Blue Devils. And they ignored it, allowing Lehigh to dance into the Round of 32.
All night long, Mason Plumlee got whatever he wanted, dominating the Mountain Hawks and doing it with ease. He went 10 for 10 from the floor and dropped a quiet 20 points, drowned out by the noise of 20 bricked three pointers.
Both Seth Curry and Austin Rivers, Duke's star guard tandem, settled for outside shots, refusing to get the ball inside to their bigs, and Mike Krzyzewski did little to correct it. Now, in the wake of what is his lowest point at the helm of the Blue Devils, it's time for a change in offensive strategy.
Yes, Plumlee had four fouls, but he was still a major weapon for Duke, along with his brother Miles, who contributed just three shots. The one thing programs like the Blue Devils almost always have over smaller schools is bigger, stronger, more athletic big men, and they were non-factors for the most of the night.
When you settle for outside shots, you set yourself up for an upset, and Lehigh clamped down on the perimeter, daring Duke to go inside — only it never happened. Coach K should have been in his players' ears, demanding they go to the Plumlees and make the Mountain Hawks pay on the inside. It was a stunning lapse in judgment by a squad that should have known better.
Whenever Coach K and company look back at the game tape, they're going to see the ease with which Plumlee scored the ball and how many times they settled for contested jumpshots. This wasn't a fluke upset where a scrappy team got hot at the right time and stunned one of college basketball's titans. It was a basketball clinic.
Lehigh came out from the opening tip and took the fight to Duke, putting the Blue Devils on their heels, and the Blue Devils never recovered. They were passive on the offensive end, never took it to the basket, never fed it to their bigs and went cold from the outside.
It was a pathetic display from a team that should have easily won this game. Duke wasn't going to cut down the nets when it was all said and done, but the Blue Devils should have still been dancing when they went to bed tonight. And they shot themselves in the foot.
Instead, it's a long, lonely road back home, and it's all because they failed to take what was there all night long. All year, Duke lived and died by the jump shot but failed to adjust when it mattered the most, and it resulted in one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
When next season rolls around, Coach K needs to preach inside-out basketball from the first day of practice, and we'll see a much better squad this time next year.
Play-making guards steal all of the headlines, but it's the big men who do the dirty work necessary to win tournament games and championships. Tonight, when the Blue Devils needed them the most, they settled for jumpshots, giving Lehigh all of the fuel it needed to tear everyone's brackets to the ground.
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