After Indiana lost to Minnesota, the debate was about how Duke or Gonzaga will be the number one team in the nation, and who deserves it more. Virginia, with a huge night from Joe Harris, made sure it’s no longer a question.
The same Virginia team that lost to Delaware, Old Dominion, George Mason, Clemson and Wake Forest, is also the team that has now beaten Duke (73-68), North Carolina and Wisconsin, and have a 10-5 record in the ACC, not losing a single conference game at home this season so far.
Duke? They are just like most number one teams so far this season, and probably not as good, not as Indiana at least, when it comes to losing to unranked teams on the road. It’s been less than two weeks since they lost to Maryland, and the loss against Virginia comes too soon before their home game against Miami, the best team in the ACC so far this season.
It was a very, very physical game and we’re not equipped to that type of game. We got knocked back.
The most worrying thing about what Coach K said? It’s probably true. With Mason Plumlee being Duke’s toughest player, physical battles on the road or against aggressive teams sometimes makes the rest of the players simply fold back, and not answer back to the challenge raised before them. Seth Curry had a big game with 28 points, and Quinn Cook scored 22 points, but Duke were crushed on the board (33-21), and failed to lead once during the game. Every time they got close enough, Virginia turned up the heat and kept things at a distance.
No one was better than Joe Harris, the Junior guard (6’6) who finished with 36 points and is averaging 17.3 points this season. That is the most anyone has scored against the Blue Devils since Al Thornton scored 37 in 2006.
And again, this isn’t surprising – Duke don’t do well on the road against strong teams, going 0-4 this season, so far, against the BPI Top 100 on their home courts, scoring 10 points less per game than when facing teams outside the top 100 on the road. This is the 3rd straight night that a top-5 team has lost to an unranked opponent. All 3 of those losses have come on the road, following Indiana and Michigan dropping games against Minnesota and Penn State.
Harris was fantastic, which we knew he would be. He’s just one of the best players in the country. When you have a guy playing at that level it brings everybody up. You know you’re playing with a stud.
Virginia needed a win like this to push them up everyone’s shortlists for the final 68 teams to make the tournament. Duke needed a win in a place like Virginia to feel more comfortable before their home game against Miami, but also because their number one seed for the NCAA tournament is in danger because of their two losses over the last couple of weeks to unranked teams.
Gonzaga don’t have anything to worry about. Maybe they play in a weaker conference, but they don’t drop games to unranked teams, regardless of how good they are. It’s time people get used to the idea of a new number one.