The Duke Blue Devils suffered their first loss of the season on a snowy Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The final margin was 81–73 in favor of the home team.
Two weeks ago, Duke beat Michigan on a neutral court in New York City. The final margin was 71–56.
Perhaps the schedule can be modified so that the two teams can play again in another couple of weeks. To be fair, this time in Durham.
Unless this can be arranged, the Blue Devils will have to wait until the NCAA Tournament to get their revenge. And the next time it won't be on Michigan's home court.
Previous articles by this writer, and comments as recently as yesterday, have warned of the danger of the "Anvil Chorus" of Michigan. The Wolverines have beaten Duke before at Ann Arbor in December and the two behemoths met later in the Final Four.
Michigan defeated Duke for a number of reasons. One, the Blue Devils were hurried into quick shots, often three-point nonsense, by a hyped up and intense Wolverine defense.
Two, Duke failed to penetrate the middle and expose the soft back–line of the 1–3–1 employed by Michigan.
As a result of these two particular mistakes the Blue Devils attempted only six free throws and missed 26 out of 33 three-point shots. Laughable were it not true.
Another factor was Duke did not control the pace of the game and did not dominate the boards. By doing neither, the Blue Devils put themselves in a position to lose, not win.
At fault? Could be any of several problem areas. Nolan Smith played poorly. Gerald Henderson was in constant foul trouble. Kyle Singler couldn't throw it into Lake Michigan.
The Blue Devils closed out too tight in the on the ball defensive stance and permitted the Wolverines to blow by them or go backdoor.
In short, it was a great advantage for Michigan to have tasted the pitchfork of the Blue Devil defense previously and prepared summarily for the challenge.
So, there you have it. Duke will not go unbeaten this season. But that's the entire negative that has to come out of this loss. And if previous experience with Mike Kryzyzewski's teaching tells us anything, it is that "Duke never dies".
Duke Blue Devil Basketball, coming to a basketball court near you soon. Can't wait.