WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Boy, was that a great game or what? Belmont was no fluke. They had 10 players play at least 10 minutes, and all of them were capable of playing tough defense and making shots. It was Belmont's third straight year in the NCAA Tournament and it showed. They were resilient and confident and never backed down from the mighty Dookies in an exhilirating, 71-70, loss.
Mike Krzyzewski, who was battling the flu, could barely speak after the game. But he was duly impressed by Belmont and called Thursday's first-round game one of the most pressure-filled of his 89 as Duke's coach. Duke had the weight of expectations, a worthy opponent, and a Verizon Center crowd that got behind the underdog in the second half.
Duke toughed this one out, but the game magnified all their acknowledged shortcomings. They're not strong defensively on the interior and quick guards can break them down in the halfcourt. Gerald Henderson, their 6-4 swingman, was the only guy who played big. He saved them with a number of huge plays down the stretch, including the winner.
From what I can see, Duke isn't long for this tournament. They might not even make it out of Washington.