At no point before or during last night’s game did I think Duke was going to beat UNC. It was a combination of the previous game against Miami and the fact that Duke matched up terribly with UNC. I didn’t know who would guard Barnes, how they would stop Marshall from getting in the lane or how they could prevent UNC from dominating the offensive rebounds. During the game it looked like UNC took Duke’s best shot in the first half and was still up three going into halftime. It didn’t really surprise me that the lead fluctuated between 8 and 12 points for most of the 2nd half. Normally, I don’t text my brother-in-law (the enemy) during the game, but didn’t seem to be that big of a deal because it more closely resembled the Paulus/McRoberts Duke-UNC games. I was content with how Duke played and was actually somewhat ok with them losing to UNC. I was wrong. I was wrong about so many things, but most importantly I was wrong in thinking that Duke couldn’t beat UNC.
Also, I was wrong about questioning any of Coach K lineup decisions. I thought Quinn Cook should play more, and that playing Tyler Thornton wasn’t the best idea. Thornton didn’t have the best game, but this three to start the comeback was an intelligent, critical play. Coach K has been searching for what works with the team, and give him credit for taking a team that lost Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Iring and leading it to impressive wins against Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State and UNC. I might complain about the team, but they have five wins against top 25 (RPI ranking), which just so happens to be four more wins than UNC has against top 25 teams.
I was wrong for comparing Mason Plumlee to Josh McRoberts. The middle Plumlee didn’t have the best game, but his steal before Curry’s three was something that at least got him of the McRoberts line. There will be time to analyze his game, but after last night I would like to stay positive.
I was wrong about Austin Rivers. I never really liked watching him play. His outside shot seemed to be at best described as streaky, and I wondered if he was ever going to be a decent three point shooter. Ask Tyler Zeller how his three point shot looks? Anyway, his passion, heart and production last night made me a believer. No matter how the rest of his career goes, Rivers has given me a game and a moment that cements part of his legacy. Just like last year when Nolan Smith and Seth Curry led the comeback against UNC, Rivers never has to pay for another drink around me.
Last night was one of those sports miracles that makes following sports worth it. I had low expectations of the game, and just like a lot of things I was wrong. This was a classic UNC-Duke game and 30 years from now I will still smile whenever I see a replay of Rivers shot to complete the comeback.