March Madness / Where have you gone, Bobby Hurley?

Despite being stocked with recruit­ing rich­es, Duke is going home ear­ly and it's not too sur­pris­ing why: streaky offense, untime­ly turnovers, killed on the boards, noth­ing in the post, the list goes on. But what's dif­fer­ent about this team? Why isn't Coach K's for­mu­la work­ing anymore? 

Wojo and Coach K share a moment"Promise me you'll nev­er leave." Pho­to: Replay pho­tos.

Coach K has always recruit­ed play­ers with rad­i­cal­ly invert­ed ratios of tal­ent to like­abil­i­ty — incred­i­bly gift­ed, fun­da­men­tal­ly sound play­ers who always come across as arro­gant and enti­tled. His play­ers are not only good ath­letes, they're (gen­er­al­ly) clean-cut, team-ori­ent­ed guys who care more about win­ning than stats, and usu­al­ly, come March, they're mow­ing teams down with a sin­gle-mind­ed dri­ve to the Final Four.At least part of the prob­lem seems to be that this par­tic­u­lar mod­el (coach­es and play­ers alike) just isn't built for, nor is it capa­ble of adapt­ing to, the kinds of com­pe­ti­tion it sees in the tour­na­ment. David­son doesn't have a reli­able post pres­ence, and they're still around because (a) they've got a guy who can light it up, and (b) they had oth­er guys who leapt into the breach when that guy wasn't get­ting it done. With Duke, it's par­tial­ly a func­tion of the play­ers just not get­ting it done, but it also seems like the coach­ing staff isn't address­ing at least one fair­ly obvi­ous problem.

Someone needs to tell him the truth

Who is going to tell Coach K that point guard Greg Paulus is killing the team with ter­ri­ble tran­si­tion deci­sions, ill-advised threes and real­ly bad defen­sive gam­bles? Not Wojo. After all, he *was* Paulus eight years ago. Not Chris Collins. He was Paulus ten years ago. When you include Quin Sny­der, Tom­my Amak­er, Jeff Capel, and the unat­tain­able mod­el — Bob­by Hur­ley — in the con­ver­sa­tion, it becomes clear that Coach K has basi­cal­ly recruit­ed the same guy again and again. Or per­haps he has just always been try­ing to recruit Bob­by Hur­ley. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for Duke, Paulus is no Bob­by Hur­ley. He's not even close.Maybe you can be the next one; here's a DVD called Mike Krzyzews­ki: Duke Bas­ket­ball — Devel­op­men­tal Drills for Point Guards.

Fellow Duke haters, our cup runneth over

When Duke is strug­gling, there's a dis­tur­bance in the Force across col­lege bas­ket­ball uni­verse, and it rip­ples through the sport­ing press. On Sun­day, The New York Times — which gen­er­al­ly reserves its biased report­ing to Demo­cat­ic pol­i­tics, the local teams and the Big East — pub­lished an fair­ly obvi­ous­ly gloat­ing analy­sis of Duke's loss on Sun­day. Most sports jour­nal­ists would ignore — or even crit­i­cize — the pos­tur­ing of play­ers dur­ing post-game press con­fer­ence, but this arti­cle uses post-game trash talk as the plat­form for game analysis. 

When told that the Moun­taineers had just beat­en a team with eight McDonald's all-Amer­i­cans, Alexan­der seemed star­tled. He arched his eye­brows and asked in a seri­ous tone, "Who?"Nearly every Blue Dev­il who played Sat­ur­day was a high school all-Amer­i­can. West Vir­ginia has none. So after embar­rass­ing the Blue Dev­ils on the court by scor­ing 22 points in a 73–67 vic­to­ry, Alexan­der and his under­recruit­ed and under­hyped team­mates spent much of the postgame inter­views in the lock­er room mock­ing the Duke mystique. 

There are at least two things real­ly wrong with these para­graphs. First of all, Joe Alexan­der knows who Duke's All-Amer­i­cans are. They prob­a­bly whooped his butt in AAU games and took all the big prizes on the sum­mer camp cir­cuit. (I stand cor­rect­ed. Appar­ent­ly, Alexan­der grew up in Asia). By beat­ing Duke in the tour­na­ment, Alexan­der earned some recog­ni­tion — good for him — but why spend it on school­yard taunts? Sec­ond­ly, West Vir­ginia in no way "embar­rassed" Duke. The game was tight, both teams bat­tled. An embar­rass­ment could take many forms, but this game wasn't one.

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, the Blue Dev­ils found out that their blue-blood his­to­ry, recruit­ing pedi­gree and ESPN-fueled aura mean lit­tle in the N.C.A.A. tournament.

I high­ly doubt that Duke's seem­ing night­ly pres­ence on ESPN has done any­thing to make oth­er teams fear them. If any­thing, it makes them a big­ger tar­get, and it gave every­one in the coun­try a chance to wit­ness their inep­ti­tude against North Car­oli­na twice this year.A much more sound analy­sis of the game can be found at The X's and O's of coach­ing, describ­ing the var­i­ous ways in which Hug­gy Bear's offense exploit­ed the propen­si­ty of Duke defend­ers to overcommit.