INDIANAPOLIS -- It has been said that the 2010 NCAA Final Four lacks the star power it might have enjoyed had Kentucky's John Wall faced Syracuse's Wesley Johnson in a battle of NBA lottery picks. Certainly, the two highest-seeded teams to reach the Final Four, Duke and West Virginia, who met in the second semifinal game last night at Lucas Oil Stadium, are the epitome of how to win ugly.
Their greatest strength besides playing tough defense is their ability to get offensive rebounds. "Not many teams in the United States rebound over 40 percent of their misses like both of us do," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said before the game. With a smile, he added, "I guess it also says we both miss a lot of shots."
Duke played a significantly prettier game last night, shooting 13-for-25 (52 percent) on three-pointers and 52.7 percent from the floor in a 78-57 victory that propelled the Blue Devils into the title game tomorrow night against Butler.
Jon Scheyer led Duke with 23 points, shooting 5-for-9 on threes. Kyle Singler had 21 points, shooting 3-for-5 on threes, and Nolan Smith had 19 points, going 4-for-9 on threes. Scheyer had seven assists, Smith six and Singler five.
Duke also outrebounded West Virginia 26-16 and had only seven turnovers to the Mountaineers' 11.
Duke reached the Final Four shooting only 43.2 percent from the field in the tournament, but West Virginia was far worse, making just 38.8 percent of its shots. The Mountaineers somehow managed to beat Kentucky in the East Regional final without making a two-point field goal until 18:08 remained in the second half.
Da'Sean Butler quipped, "I've always said our best chance to make baskets is to miss our first shot."
Not sure you can call that an offensive philosophy, but it's an approach that has worked for the Mountaineers and for the Blue Devils. Combine that rebounding ability with their defense and mental toughness, and you have two teams that reflect each other's values.
"Our team totally wants to rebound and play defense," Krzyzewski said. "They have accepted who they are, and they've tried to become better at who they are instead of trying to become somebody they're not. The acceptance of roles has been key for our team.
"That's one of the reasons I really love the guys. We're going to need to be that to have an opportunity to beat West Virginia because they know who they are."
Duke has more size in the frontcourt, but the Mountaineers do a good job of defending the perimeter because of the length they have when they put 6-9 Devin Ebanks out high in the 1-3-1 zone defense, then use the size and quickness of Kevin Jones and Butler on the wings.
Although he is Duke's leading scorer, Scheyer is about as unglamorous as it gets, a career 40-percent shooter, though he hits a very respectable 38 percent from three-point range. He's also the kind of guy opponents love to hate because he will do whatever it takes to win, from taking charges to giving hard fouls.