The string of big upsets in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament continues, beginning with the huge upset in the Mercer – Duke game, with the Blue Devils ousted 78-71 by the experienced and simply better Atlantic Sun team, while Stephen F. Austin stunning VCU was just as big of a shock for everyone, only with less of a nationwide impact.
There were more lower seeds winning, but not making such a huge noise around the country: #10 Stanford did beat New Mexico, but it’s really not considered an actual upset considering the seeding sometimes actually don’t make much sense. Of the first two days of the real NCAA tournament, the second one didn’t have as many surprises as the first, but the damage to the brackets has been done, and Duke losing to nobodies is usually the biggest news possible in the early goings.
So what went wrong for the Blue Devils? Playing in North Carolina is great for every school but them, getting plenty of hate when they travel outside of Durham. Their head coach talking about the Atlantic 10 wasn’t very helpful as well, although Duke don’t really need a reason for someone to put a target on their backs.
And Coach K can talk all he wants about not underestimating the opponents and trying to make it seem like this isn’t a true surprise. The fact that Mercer have senior players shouldn’t make them better than a team with someone like Jabari Parker leading the line, with an excellent Rodney Hood as his sidekick.
But the problems with Freshman is that they mess up, and when you build your world around them, the crash can be painful. The 2012 Kentucky team was an exception, and teams crashing out left and right since then when they base their hopes on talented one-and-done players (although Parker might stay another year, like Marcus Smart) is excellent proof.
Parker and Duke weren’t destroyed in the paint; in fact they finished with 16 offensive rebounds. But they played awful on offense, shooting 35.3% from the field, with Parker scoring 14 points. Rasheed Suliamon and Quinn Cook, the “veterans”, both scored 20 and 23 respectively. Duke just didn’t have enough smarts and experience on the floor, not to mention defense, as Mercer players shot 55.6% from the field, getting 20 points from Jakob Gollon and 17 from Daniel Coursey. For a program that hasn’t been to the tournament in 19 years, this win is beyond huge.
Later that day in San Diego, another upset was brewing. VCU is the kind of Atlantic 10 team no one usually wants to play. Final Four history, a great coach in Shaka Smart. They are usually expected to do more than just the first round.
But SF Austin dominating shouldn’t be that much of a shock. They finished with a 18-0 record in the Southland conference, 32-2 during the season. The Lumberjacks have excellent players in Jacob Parker (scoring 22 points) and Desmond Haymond who added 17. In a game that ended 77-75 in overtime, with Haymon pulling off a four-point play just before regulation to keep the game alive.
Plenty of favorites still left in the dance, but Duke, a team many season referred to as overrated, are already the biggest name out of the competition, with Mercer hoping to do more than Lehigh did two years ago.