For a big chunk of the game, it looked like the Carlos Boozer show, as Boozer was a wrecking crew. He was 12-13 from the floor and 9-10 from the line. But at the end of the game, though, Duke could not get him the ball and basically losing their composure as Virginia's confidence grew and grew.
Yet the problems in this game didn't begin with Virginia's 21-1 run at the end. Duke could have put an end to this game, really, in the first 30 minutes, but lacked the courage to impose their will. Duke could have had at least a 14 point lead at the half, and had things gone well, could have had a 20 point lead. Instead, mental errors let Virginia shave 8 points off quickly, and that was a foreshadowing of the sensational rally at the end.
Really, this game is about mental toughness. Virginia didn't have it early but summoned it. Duke was challenged late and didn't respond, and that about sums it up.
The questions after the games are simple: are there problems for the NCAA tournament? Is Duke too soft to go the distance? Will this game wound the psyche?
The best answers can be found in the past. In 1990, Duke flamed out in the ACC. Phil Henderson called his teammates "babies." It looked like major dissension. But the team pulled together and got to the title game. That title game was a devastating loss. That would have lingered for a lot of teams. In 1991, Duke lost by 20 to UNC in the ACC championship game. One year, Duke lost 3 straight to close out the season (this was the Ferry-King team). Last year, we thought Duke was dead when Boozer was injured (just a point - the criticisms you're hearing this year haven't changed from last year)
We would never rule Duke out when they have Coach K on the bench. We harken back to what Alaa Abdelnaby said about Krzyzewski having an extra spring in his step in March. There's a lot to learn from this game. Unfortunately, a lot of it comes back to some things that should have been straightened out - leadership, composure, having a killer instinct. It wasn't there Thursday, but if you bet against Duke in March because of February, you're betting against history.
For UVa, and the conference, it's probably good news. If they could pull off an upset of Maryland, they'd be in the tournament, we think. Obviously Duke fans hate losing, but you can't expect to make as many mental errors as Duke made and still win. And hats off to Virginia. Their backs were to the wall, but they made their minds up they weren't going to lose. It's a lesson from which Duke can learn.