Duke Blue Devils Silence Doubters to Define Greatness in a Different Way

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Duke Blue Devils Silence Doubters to Define Greatness in a Different Way
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS–Defining greatness the past three seasons was practically as easy as it gets: Florida repeated as champions; Kansas won the toughest Final Four ever; and North Carolina throttled the NCAA Tournament field.

This year, it is different.  Duke was really never considered a title favorite.

"It hasn't sunk in that we're national champions," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

It hasn't sunk in because in a way it's almost hard to believe this team cut down the nets in a year where some people doubted early in the season whether this was even a top-25 team.

Or that most rejected the idea this team deserved a No. 1 seed over West Virginia and Syracuse.

Or that the Blue Devils held down the coveted No. 1 ranking in Ken Pomeroy's efficiency rankings for weeks.  (Most scoffed at that rating much like people did last year when Memphis ranked first for weeks.)

In the end, what Duke did to win this title was great. They are national champions and they deserve it. Great teams win four consecutive brutal slugfests where every play from the opening tip to the final buzzer could be the game's deciding play.

There was also something to the way Duke played both offense and defense that made it the greatest team in the country.

"It's one-possession games," Butler guard Ronald Nored said in reference to Duke breaking down every game into 60 one-possession games.

All year, Duke worked teams patiently for 35 seconds, waiting for its right shot. Mike Krzyzewski's team put this mentality to work to win the slowest game of the tournament by scoring an astounding 1.43 points per possession.

Against Butler, the opposite was needed. The Bulldogs weren't going to let Duke score, so the Blue Devils needed to do everything possible to keep Butler off the board–and they did.

To Jon Scheyer, everything this team worked at culminated in the final two and a half minutes of his college career.

"We were yelling at each other, not in a bad way, 'How many d-slides and defensive drills have we been through the last years?' This is where it comes into play,'" Scheyer said.

To be great, a team needs a fearless leader, which it had in Scheyer.

Scheyer, above anyone else, showed the composure needed from a point guard. His demeanor never waned throughout the championship game. On cue, Scheyer stood stoically while watching "One Shining Moment," never losing his composure–even during the second viewing of Gordon Hayward's shot that almost changed college basketball forever.

His teammates all smiled at each other during that play, but not Scheyer. He stood still, staring with watering eyes at the greatness his team had achieved and the moment he's dreamt of for years.

"It has a place in my heart because I've watched every one since I was a little with my parents," Scheyer said.

Scheyer and his teammates' one shining moment came in typical 2010 Duke fashion. The Blue Devils won because they were tough, because they outscored Butler each half by the slimmest of all margins–a margin not even wide enough to withstand what almost was a miraculous half-court make.

They've laid a foundation for a new era of Duke greatness. Blue Devil-in-waiting Seth Curry said afterward the things he'll take away from Scheyer the most were his toughness and ability to play with his back up against the wall.

Curry, next year's stud recruits, and the returning members of the 2010 team will make for a perfect blend of talent similar to that of the great 2001 Blue Devils squad and toughness of this 2010 team.

For more college basketball stories and updates, follow@JamesonFleming on Twitter.

 

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