A week later it’s known that I was completely and utterly wrong about that.
(7) South Carolina 88, (2) Duke 81
In sports, but especially college sports, the word “upset” is used all the time to describe a higher-ranked team losing a game to a lower-ranked team. “Upset” is used so often that it’s overused, because doesn’t it sort of defeat the purpose of being an upset if it’s an ordinary occurance? Unless a game’s outcome is fully shocking or fully unexpected — but usually it needs to be both — then calling it an “upset” loses its value.
Maybe I take this shit too literally.
With that being said Duke’s loss last night was an upset, if for nothing else that I was, well… upset about it. In the most literal application.
No, that doesn’t mean the loss itself was particularly egregious. South Carolina was a 7.5-point underdog according to Vegas, a decent size, and ESPN’s advanced whatchamacallit machine gave South Carolina a 17% chance of winning. That’s roughly 1-in-6. So we are talking about a game Duke wins about 8.5 times out of 10, not 99 out of 100.
It’s a game they, on paper, should have won. But Duke was not such a favorite that it was impossible that they lost. So again, the loss isn’t what I’m disappointed in.
The reason for that is me. The reason I’m upset is due to the fact that I got this so wrong. My intuition was wrong. My supposed objectivity in the lens through which I view Duke basketball was as misplaced this year as it has ever been.
I went to work yesterday without any qualms about missing (what turned into) the season-ending Duke game. I figured if they advanced far enough, and I assumed they would advance pretty far, then I could call off work on a game of higher priority. It’s silly, but this is how I live my life.
So when I got off work a little after 7:00, I checked my phone in the hallway on my way out and went straight to opening the NCAA March Madness app. It was a couple minutes into the second half and Duke was up by 7 points. I wasn’t feeling especially overconfident, per se, but I was more of the mind like wake me the fuck up when this bitch starts to get interesting.
I drove to the Shell and filled up my gas tank. By the time I left the game was tied at 44 and you could say I got my wish: the game got so interesting that it wasn’t fun anymore. The pro-South Carolina crowd was piping through my speakers at a much higher frequency than the subdued Duke scoring plays. The game was close for a little while, but USC-East pretty much controlled the final 10 minutes of the game, if not the entire second half.
Combine that by some stupid and ridiculous traffic coming back from the massive tennis tournament at Indian Wells that just finished. Last year I caught that same traffic, only with the added bonus that it was also my birthday. So what was already an hour drive took more like three hours.
Anyway, just a shit way to experience Duke’s last game of the season. It was an upset.
We are now at the point of year where there will be a mass exodus of players leaving Duke for the NBA. The team fielded only two seniors in 2016-’17, those being Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, but the amount of talent on this year’s team might end up making more of an NBA impact than any other Duke class in history. I think people will look back on this squad and wonder how in the fucking world they lost 9 games and exited in the second round of the big dance.
Jayson Tatum is gone. Harry Giles is probably gone. Luke Kennard is probably gone. Grayson Allen should probably stay, but with all the headaches he caused during this campaign I wonder if Coach K might just tell him it’s better for all parties if he moves on.
That’s where we are. I won’t remember this Duke team in terms of their accomplishment of winning the ACC Tournament, even as cool as that was. I’ll remember Grayson Allen being a dickhead. I’ll remember Coach K going down with back surgery. I’ll remember Tatum and Kennard being awesome.
But what I will remember most is just the wasted potential. I have seen Duke win three national championships in my lifetime, the only one of my favorite sports teams to ever win it all. And of those three championship teams, I might take the 2016-’17 team to beat any of the others, perhaps only with the exception of the loaded 2001 unit. That’s how strongly I felt about their talent level.
To that end, anything less than a national championship and I presume I would be feeling the same disappointment that I do right now. I would be writing the same article. Because anything less than that and… why the fuck do you think I do this… and why do you think I care so much.
This is sports, and this is what happens in sports. There can only be one winner. And while I thought Duke was that team this year, it’s become apparent that they were most certainly not that team this year.