When Duke entered the NCAA Tournament without a sign of a true lockdown defense, it became perhaps one of the most vulnerable Blue Devil teams in recent memory — certainly as a 2 seed at least. For 40 minutes of its surprising 75-70 victory today, Lehigh proved the more physical, more polished and far more mature team. More than anything though, Duke’s defensive deficiencies — prevalent all season — were evident both on the perimeter and in the paint.
The Devils have struggled to contain driving lanes for much of the season, failing to thwart pick-and-roll with quality hedges and just as importantly, lacking the perimeter quickness to contain elite guards including Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, who lit them up for 30 points and 6 assists. Their premier perimeter defender Tyler Thornton, simply didn’t have the foot-speed to contain and any time a big switched out, the mismatch was quantifiable.
What’s most disconcerting from Duke’s point of view isn’t necessarily that they don’t have the talent to defend top-notch players, but that this year’s team consistently failed to “help the helper.”
One of the central keys to the Mike Krzyzewski defensive system is lighting-fast rotations. At halftime, he said: “Were limited.” Against the Mountain Hawks, his club was not only slow, but at times, nonexistent.
The transition attack that Lehigh exploited with unmatched speed and efficiency added to Duke’s misery.
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