and really helpful to me as I sort through what I think about this team. If you look at a the many mock brackets that are being put together by hoop head commentators, Duke regularly ends up as a 1 or a 2 seed. As a long time Duke fan, I think I know what a Duke #1 or #2 looks like and this team doesn't pass that eye test....even though they win. But then I look at all the other teams who could take their spot - and I think, well, they aren't really any better then us, and a lot of them are worse. So it makes sense.
I agree with the posters who say that this team is competing against our memories of great Duke teams/players of the past. But I would also argue that this team is competing against its own potential. We see sparks of greatness from almost all of our players sometimes, only to have them regress/disappear soon thereafter. I think the angst about this team has to due with inconsistency that we are not used to seeing.
that said, we also have talent that allows for a team to have a different hero every night.
Again incredibly useful perspective.
Having said that, I'll say something else that may seem contradictory: why would beating FSU on Thursday change your perception of the team? If you don't think we're "a favorite" to get to the Sweet 16 now, why would one win change your mind? Other than slightly raising our chance at a #1 seed (which we still won't get if we don't win the ACC tournament and maybe not even then), I don't think a victory in Tallahassee changes our chance of gaining any of the other achievements we've been talking about (beating UNC, winning the ACCT, making the Elite Eight). We're just as likely to miss those achievements if we win at FSU as we are if we lose.
Really, this is why we're talking about perspective. The Miami game and the NC State game were essentially the same game. we played poorly in the first half of both games, then made huge second half comebacks in both. We missed a few free throws against Miami, so we lost, and the tone was incredibly negative around here. We managed to come away with a win against State, and those same people seemed more hopeful. But the two games were the same. I was just as proud of our comeback against Miami as I was against State. It's just that luck was a little more with us against State than it was against Miami. Similarly, if we play a back-and-forth game against FSU this week, but our last few shots go in and theirs don't, so we reverse what happened in Cameron, why would a win this week tell me any more about the team than the loss a few weeks ago?
"With seven national titles and 20 Final Fours in the 64-team NCAA Tournament era, Duke and UNC have had more playoff success than any other CONFERENCE." - Al Featherston
A win can, however, spur marginally more confidence, and buoy spirits, and those emotional gains can have a difference, in my opinion. Think if Austin's shot had not gone in against UNC ... we're still the same team, but it's a different feel, and that different feel can have consequences.
After reviewing the Kenpom v. RPI thread, I went and looked at Duke's final placement in the sports-reference SRS total team rankings over several years. The 1995 team was #22 in the nation. A team with talent that could hang. What if that team had won a few more games in the middle of the season rather than losing. It's still the same team, same talent, who could hang ... could the difference between 13-18 and an ACCT exit, and 18-20 wins and an NCAA berth, just be the emotional edge from a victory or two earlier? Plays into it somewhat, I think. I believe I see this in football -- a team that's middling starts stringing together wins, and then becomes a good team. Hopefully this 2012 Duke b'ball team should be in fine spirits no matter what happens Thursday night -- we can hang, and we've had games that went our way to help keep our spirits up.
I look at the ride Murray State is on - and wonder what the expectations are for that team. They are normally a one and done in tourney. Are they shooting for the second round? And is it a triumph of a season if so?
Heck, look at this year's defense. Pomeroy has us at .943 points allowed per possession and a tempo of 68.8 possessions per game, so you'd expect to give up roughly 65 points per game. And in 2010? Well, the defensive efficiency was .859 points per possession, so at the same pace...59 points per game (this is based on figures after the tournament, so the difference is probably inflated). Two three pointers, in 40 minutes of basketball, is the difference. Is that an issue? Yes. Is this team as likely to win it all as it was in 2010? No. Is this some insurmountable gap that means this team will inevitably flame out before the Sweet 16? Most definitely not.
My post was to defend another poster's citation to the growing body of evidence that despite big wins at the begining of the season (and more recently, the remarkable and historically awesome UNC win) the team has some continuing vulnerabilities (defending dribble penetration, inconsistent post play) that will keep us on the edge of our seat the rest of the season. That's not bad. In some ways it is more exciting than say, last year, when, even without Kyrie, the team seemed strong enough that perhaps it *should* (not just *could*) make the Final Four (and probably would have without an amazing performance by Derrick Williams that probably made that kid a lot of money). So I agree that it is fun to watch the team develop.
I also agree with you about the vagaries of lady luck, and generally agree that the Miami game and State game share some similarities. I actually think we played a lot better against State in the first half of that game, and got the Pack in foul trouble, which is a big part of why Duke pulled ahead down the stretch. I think we showed growth and poise against State that was perhaps borne of the confidence the team gained by coming back and beating Carolina.
And that is part of why I say that winning the FSU game on the road is an important harbinger for the rest of the season. Here is a team that we know will get a decent seed in the NCAAs and which beat Duke at home. Are we better now? Can we beat them on the road with first place in the conference on the line? I think a win against the best defensive team in our conference tells us a lot -- and yes, makes it more likely that Duke will suceed in the postseason. Not just by raising the likelihood of a 1 or 2 seed, but by building confidence.
On the above, I certainly hear your point about the source of fan angst and the close games we've had. But consider this. One of the teams I mention from this year as being very good and probably better than Duke -- Syracuse -- has also had a string of very close games recently.
In their 7 games since their loss at Notre Dame, they beat an unranked Cincy team only by 7; an unranked WVU team only by 2 (at home); a good Gtown (#11) team only by 3 in OT (at home); and a good Louisville (#17) team only by one. Further, in their last game against a very mediocre Rutgers team (4-10 in the Big East), they were only up 2 with three minutes left to play. One could say Rutgers is the equivalent to BC (3-10 in ACC). Could you imagine the negative in-game comments if we were only up 2 against BC with three minutes left to play? Even if we won the game, many would have seen it as a sign of our weaknesses and inability to compete with other perceived superior teams. I wonder how many Syracuse fans are stressed about such a close call at Rugters and what it means for the team's prospects in March? I ask that neutrally -- I really don't know. Maybe many of them are.
The general point though is that as fans we often tend to magnify the flaws and mistakes of our own team while magnifying the superiority of other teams. The reason for this is inherently obvious. We watch every game of our team, closely looking for piecemeal clues from every play and trying to interpret what they mean about the team as a whole. But how many games have you watched, say, of Syracuse? Or Kansas? Have you seen all the stupid plays made by Jardine? He's made quite a few. Have you seen all the missed easy shots by Joseph (who, by the way, is averaging 14 points a game -- not a heroic number)? It's happened. In other words, many of the flaws we might see in this team, we would also see in other teams (or rather different flaws) if we watched as closely as we watch Duke. Layer on top of it the emotional investment of being a fan, and every bad play, every mistake, every flaw can get magnified and seem "fatal" in comparison to the assumed greatness of other teams. But there are very few teams who are much better than Duke this year, and in most years. So in this sense, the perspective I guess I'm discussing is the broader one of realizing where this team is in comparison to the other good teams out there. We're in a great spot.
So while I agree with you in general, I still don't think a win at FSU will have more than a negligible effect, positive or negative, on the UNC game, our ACC tournament success, or our NCAA tournament success.
Thanks for starting this thread. I have been enjoying the posts.
I wonder if one of the biggest issues in terms of perspective is how a season is judged. If the sole determinant of a successful season is how the team does in the final game of the season, that greatly impacts how a person watches the games all year long. In that case, all weaknesses are looked at; how prior Duke teams didn't advance as far in the NCAA tournament as seeded; how other Duke teams have lost; this all leads to angst about how the present Duke team might not advance as far as the fan would like in the NCAAs.
If a fan enjoys the process along the way and considers a 20 or more win season successful no matter what happens in the final game of the year, then a championship in the preseason becomes very exciting. Beating other top 10 teams during the year becomes very exciting. Starting ACC play with a road win (which the previous two great Duke teams were unable to do) becomes exciting. Having thrilling final possession victories vs. good teams can be very exciting. Beating Carolina in the Dean Dome on an epic buzzer beater that will be one of the rivalries great highlights guarantees that there will be great memories of this season. Watching these players grow into new roles, improve as compared to last year, or earlier this year can be very exciting. Preparing for a potential revenge match-up vs. one of the top 5 defensive teams in the country in their hostile arena for a team that has yet to lose on the road in conference play becomes exciting. Defending an ACC title becomes exciting. Playing in the NCAA tournament where an upset can happen at any time and end a season is very exciting, and nerve wracking.
Perspective can certainly change depending on whether a successful season depends on the results of the final game or not.
“Those two kids, they’re champions,” Krzyzewski said of his senior leaders. “They’re trying to teach the other kids how to become that, and it’s a long road to become that.”