One of the things we've been excited about the last couple of seasons is the improved coaching in the ACC, which was in evidence today across the conference (State's winning three pointer against Clemson, Clemson's impressive game against State, Virginia handling Maryland), but really, nobody earned his paycheck Saturday as much as Steve Donahue.
BC was scrappy, smart, and played with passion and great heart. You never want to lose a game, but when you see some teams in some games - this BC team, Butler, Belmont, Davidson almost every year - you respect them and know that losing to a team like that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
Because you respect and admire them.
Certainly BC had, overall, a better game than did Duke. Duke was forced from normal habits by the weather in New England, arriving only six hours before game time, and then from normal game habits by BC.
Often triple-teaming Plumlee, BC's defense confused Duke and forced some unusual turnovers from the Blue Devils.
Or perhaps Duke simply underestimated BC's athleticism.
Whatever you can pin it on, BC played a great game. Their base of Ryan Anderson, Olivier Hanlan, Joe Rahon and Lonnie Jackson is pretty solid. Toss in Dennis Clifford, when he's healthy, and Eddie Odio, and these guys are really dangerous.
Their problem, for at least a little longer, is just that they're young, which was underscored when Joe Rahon, with a chance to break a 61-61 tie and put BC up three, shot from deep in the corner and bounced the ball off the top of the backboard.
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Next year, he'll hit that shot.
BC's record is just 10-13, but when you think about it, they've come a long way this season. Earlier, they lost to Charleston, barely beat Auburn, and followed that with a loss to Bryant.
In ACC play, they've been highly competitive with State, Miami and Duke. The Eaglets are now fledglings and about ready to do some hunting.
As for Duke, it was a strange day with strange conditions. The most important things to take away from this are the confidence and poise Duke showed down five late and that they won the game on defense.
For whatever reason, teams with variations of the Princeton offense - think Michigan under John Beilein, BC, Wake the last time out - seem to give Duke trouble. Just something to keep an eye on.
As far as Duke goes, despite the intense defense, Plumlee ended up holding his own with 19 points and 10 boards and a key block down the stretch.
Seth Curry finished with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals and part of a new record: Seth and big brother Stephen are the highest scoring brothers in NCAA history. Stephen finished with 2,635 in three years at Davidson; Seth currently has 1,858 between his one year and Liberty and three at Duke for a total of 4,493. That puts them past the Hansbrough brothers - Ben and some guy whose name we forget (well we'd like to anyway), who have 4,485.
As Seth said after the game, "It's always good to pass a Carolina guy in anything."
Incidentally, the split on Curry's totals: 707 at Liberty, 1,151 at Duke to date.
Of course if Stephen had stayed another year at Davidson, just going by his three year average, the total would there would be well over 3,000, somewhere around 3,500. If that had happened, the Currys would be at 5,358.
As you probably noticed in the second half, Duke went with veterans wherever possible: Plumlee, Curry, Hairston, Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton taking a lot of Rasheed Sulaimon's usual minutes.
They didn't score a lot, but they did provide some maturity and, a couple of bad decisions by Thornton aside, smart play.
In fact, despite scoring just four points and grabbing one board, you could argue that this was one of Hairston's better games at Duke.
The bearded Virginian, whose exuberance is a lot of fun to watch, managed to be in the right place for an important pair of shots and played solid defense.
Cook, who Coach K said was reluctant to shoot in this game, finished 3-11 and with four turnovers and four fouls.
Still, he hit a critical three when called upon which cut BC's lead from 61-56 to 61-59.
From there, it was Mason's and Rasheed's show: Mason scored Duke's final three points from the line, while Rasheed defended brilliantly on the final play, where Hanlan was supposed to come off a screen for a shot. He got a shot, but not the one he wanted, and he missed.