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Duke Bows Out To A Very Physical Tennessee Team, 65-52

An unfortunate ending to what had become a wonderful season, but the future looks good for Duke.

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Duke v Tennessee
 ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 18: Olivier Nkamhoua #13 of the Tennessee Volunteers rebounds the ball against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 18, 2023 in Orlando, Florida.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tennessee said they were going to try to smack Duke in the mouth and that’s exactly what they did as Jon Scheyer’s first season as head coach ends in the round of 32, 65-52.

Tennessee took it to Duke physically as Rick Barnes followed his traditional template of just playing smash mouth basketball. We saw this early as Uros Plasvic just hammered Kyle Filipowski, throwing him around and opening a significant cut on his cheek. We also saw - on that same play - Tyrese Proctor get thrown to the court.

It went on all game - holding, grabbing, shoving with hands or thighs. Amazingly, given how roughly Tennessee played, they were only called for 11 fouls while Duke got whistled for 17.

The Blue Devils had 15 turnovers, which obviously hurt, and the Vols greatly limited Duke on the offensive boards, holding the Devils to just four for the game.

It didn’t help that Mark Mitchell had to sit out after a minor knee injury suffered in practice, but it’s not like Duke is the only team to have a critical injury in this tournament. You just have to figure out how to overcome whatever is in front of you, and that wasn’t easy Saturday.

If you want to put the whole thing in a nutshell, young Duke ran into a powerful, physically mature team that just beat them up one side and down the other. There will be a lot of ice bags after this one.

Various coaches like Barnes and Virginia’s Tony Bennett have learned that you can slow the game down and beat a team up to win. We’re not saying they're the same - Virginia is very physical but it’s just tedious and frustrating. Brad Stevens did something similar at Butler, where he just ground you down, beauty of the game be damned.

Tennessee wants to hurt you and says so.

Either way, at some point if this spreads too far, the NCAA is going to have to make some decisions about how far it will let this go, because games that are in the 40’s and 50’s are ultimately going to drive all but the most dedicated viewers away.

What it reminded us of was the Duke-West Virginia game in 2007. West Virginia just roughed Duke up and really took the game to the Devils, not least of all a young, thin guard named Jon Scheyer.

But two years later, they met again in the Final Four and a more experienced Duke just rammed the game down West Virginia’s throat, winning by 21 and just giving the Mountaineers a beating back. They would go on to win the national championship over Butler.

Things have changed a lot since then - Duke went one-and-done after that title and experience became pretty rare.

However, Scheyer has said that he plans to make some changes in Duke’s recruiting philosophy that will likely result in more experienced teams down the road.

It’s a sad way to end what in many ways was an immensely satisfying season. We’ll talk more soon about having some perspective on Scheyer’s first season.


Player Of The Game vs. Tennessee

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Dariq Whitehead
    (6 votes)
  • 11%
    Kyle Filipowski
    (57 votes)
  • 3%
    Dereck Lively
    (16 votes)
  • 68%
    Tyrese Proctor
    (333 votes)
  • 9%
    Jeremy Roach
    (48 votes)
  • 1%
    Ryan Young
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    Jaylen Blakes
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    Jacob Grandison
    (7 votes)
487 votes total Vote Now