In 2007-08, Duke had the core of a great team though no one knew it then. Four players would go on to start in the 2010 national championship game - Lance Thomas, Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Brian Zoubek.
In 2007-08 though, Singler was a freshman, Zoubek was working on an injury-plagued career that ended brilliantly, Thomas was still learning an overall game and Scheyer was a long way from moving to the point.
And this team was weak inside. DeMarcus Nelson was a superior rebounder for a 6-3 guy but he was 6-3.
Young, small and inexperienced, when Duke ran into West Virginia, they took a beating. Several in fact.
Fast forward to 2009-10 and a rematch in the Final Four semis. With Zoubek healthy and starting and with two rough tough Plumlees (Miles and Mason) to shore up the inside, it was a very different game.
In the first go-round, guys like Joe Alexander (6-8) and Joe Mazzula (6-2) bullied Duke all over the court.
Having followed Duke for a long time, we knew this game would be different. Mike Krzyzewski always says, probably rightly, that focusing on a past loss means focusing on failure.
Nonetheless, when there’s a rematch after a loss, Duke always comes out with a harass attitude and it absolutely did against West Virginia.
Mazzulla was visibly frustrated as Duke dominated the inside and outscored the Mountaineers 39-15 from three point range, winning 78-57.
Sadly, Da’Sean Butler, a truly outstanding player for West Virginia, had a very serious knee injury in this game which probably ended his professional career before it began.
This game was the very model for Duke’s habit of being better the second time around.