Marquette gave Duke all it wanted and then some as the Golden Eagles rode an
impressive backcourt performance to a 3-62 win over Duke in the finals of the
There's really no question about which team was better. Duke had some
moments, but Marquette did almost everything better than Duke.
Certainly their defense was better. Marquette forced 17 turnovers, but
they also got their hands on the ball a number of times, and often either tipped
it out of bounds and back to Duke or just forced the Devils off-balance and
further back in the shot clock cycle.
And Dominic James was superb.
Last year's Big East Rookie Of The Year had a superb game, taking it by the
throat when Duke was hanging around and putting it in Marquette's win column.
But as impressive as he was - and he was superb - they wouldn't have
won without the defensive performance of running mate Jerel McNeal.
McNeal was a huge pest for Duke, and he made it really difficult to do very
simple things. It was a bit painful to watch how often the inexperienced
Devils moved the ball into harm's way, and though he had several steals, he was
an intimidating presence even when he wasn't swiping the ball.
Everyone can think of a few indelible moments of basketball: Dennis Scott
stepping back for a three on a fast break against LSU. Shaquille O' Neal
taking on Arizona's vaunted Tucson Skyline and leaping out of the lane to block
a shot from near the top of the key.
When Marquette beat UNC to win the NCAA title in 1977, a kid in Wisconsin
famously threw his television out the window. Didn't need it
anymore. He'd seen the most beautiful thing he could imagine, and it would
never be topped, so out went the TV.
This Marquette team is going to make him buy a new one.
They play with immense passion, and poise, and togetherness. They
really get what being a team is about.
That's to say that Duke doesn't, but Marquette really underscored what a
callow group this is. Aside from a beautiful stretch in the first half and
an amazing alley-oop to Josh McRoberts, and a once-in-a lifetime basket kicked
in by Lance Thomas (it didn't count, but you'll never see it again), there
wasn't that much memorable for Duke, at least not in a positive sense.
But when they break the film down, they'll see that not only was Marquette
tougher, and more cohesive, but they were also smarter. They got Duke in
disadvantageous positions on a regular basis, and Duke didn't know what to do.
They'll be thoroughly instructed. How quickly they apply the lessons
from this game is going to be the interesting thing. They seem like a
coachable bunch, so the guess here is they'll benefit from this game and