If there is one thing we should learn from this year's NCAA Tournament, and if there is one main reason why Duke lost, it is this-today, winning the Tourney is about having athletes.
Look at every team that made the Elite Eight, a round that Duke fans might remember vaguely. Every single one of those teams is loaded with athletes. I'm talking about guys like Rudy Gay, Rodney Carney, Allan Ray and Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
What, you don't think Big Baby is a great athlete? Have you ever seen such a large man move with such agility? And did you see him pop that clutch three against Texas?
Even George Mason has big-time athletes like Lamar Butler and Will Thomas, even if they are a little undersized.
Duke, as a college basketball powerhouse, should be grabbing big-time athletes as if they were coming off an assembly line. Instead, the Blue Devils' most recent players are shorter, slower and less defiant of gravity.
Coming into this year, I thought the incoming freshmen would bring some athleticism to solve the Blue Devils' athletic woes. Josh McRoberts had finished second in the high school slam dunk contest, and Greg Paulus was the highest-rated quarterback in the country. So these guys must be big-time athletes, right?
Wrong. McRoberts is great at throwing the ball down with incredible force, but he lacks the quick leaping ability to consistently block shots and scare away defenders. Plus, quick lateral movement is not part of the McRoberts vocabulary, and this hurts in the low post on both sides of the ball. In summation, he is not quick, which is kind of important in basketball.
And Paulus? My buddies and I were shocked when we realized he lacks athleticism. It seems implausible that a two-sport star could be undersized with mediocre speed and strength, but Paulus has proven this to be possible. He can handle the ball well and thread the needle once or twice a game, but Duke has a problem when its point guard can't keep up with the other team's point guard.
When we look at the rest of the squad, each contributor not called "The Landlord" has an athletic Achilles' heel. Sean Dockery, while quick and coordinated, lacks strength, vision and innate athletic confidence. DeMarcus Nelson, who is strong and quick with great leaping ability, lacks the necessary ball-handling coordination to penetrate effectively. J.J. Redick relies almost exclusively on his coordination, as speed, size and ups are not in his player profile. And Lee Melchionni? There's a reason he worked at a bank last summer.
In Duke's four losses-Georgetown, Florida State, UNC and LSU-it was impossible not to notice the Blue Devils' lack of athleticism. Each of those teams killed Duke with one, two or many incredible athletes-athleticism that not even Mike Krzyzewski or his great system could overcome.
What the Blue Devils need is Tyrus Thomas or Joakim Noah, and what we need is for Coach K to start grabbing them off the assembly line.
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