Thursday, March 15, 2007

Duke Exits Early - Finally an Upset [J. Mark English]

Up in the harsh cold of Buffalo, Duke gets handed a rare early exit from the tournament at the hands of Virginia Commonwealth.

It was a close game, and for awhile in the second half it looked as if Duke might start to pull away. But VCU kept fighting, and pushing back. When the clock expired, the scoreboard read VCU 79, Duke 77.

This is how ESPN recaps the game:

Eric Maynor hit a 15-foot jumper with 1.8 seconds left to give Virginia Commonwealth a 79-77 upset victory over the Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday night. Maynor finished with 22 points, six of them in the final 1:24.

Duke lost a first-round game for the first time since 1996. The loss also ended the Blue Devils' string of Sweet 16 appearances at nine. It was the longest active streak and second-longest behind North Carolina's 13-year run.

Fittingly, it was VCU that knocked off George Mason -- the tournament's surprise team last year -- in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game. Maynor sealed that 65-59 win by scoring nine of his 20 points in the final 2 minutes.

Comment -

Obviously, upsets like these are what make the tournament so great to watch. But when big time teams like Duke fall, it makes the later rounds less interesting. Last year's Final Four had very little fire. Florida rolled past George Mason, and the big dance at the end had little drama... Duke certainly would have provided some more interest in a second round match up then VCU will, and that will hurt the ratings.

Duke can look forward to next year. They had a young team, and they'll be back next year with much more experience under their belt. Look for them to be a top tier team again next year, fighting for a national championship, as always.

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