From the diaries. As usual great stuff from MIM. I don't think I have ever fired up this much for a UCLA basketball game. GO BRUINS. -N
Yeah, yeah, I know. Most of us -- including yours truly -- have dissected this game by drawing parallels to the Blue Devil/ Rebel matchups of the early 90s.
Still, it is a bit encouraging to see even the folks at DSPN come up with similar ideas. Guess they'll do anything to make sure Duke is still even analogously close to relevant in this year's Final Four -- since, athletically, they obviously are NOT.
Here are some of the more interesting bits (all boldface added by me):Duke was atomized in the '90 championship game by UNLV, 103-73 -- still the widest championship-game margin in history. Then the Blue Devils got a rematch with the defending champs and prohibitive repeat favorites in the '91 Final Four semifinals, turned the tables and shocked the world.
UCLA's position is almost identical. The final margin last year wasn't as bad (16 points instead of 30), but the beatdown was every bit as vicious. The Bruins were outclassed from the opening tip. Now they face the pre-tournament favorites in the semifinals, trying to derail a repeat and regain respect from a team that toyed with them a year ago.
We all hate to say it, but yeah, we got slammed last year on national TV (although hearing of Duke getting 'atomized' is always cause to rejoice). No mincing words -- we were. But jumping past the Hurley-worship a few paragraphs, there are some nice gems in the column, especially how their heightened "focus and resolve" led them to some glorious payback:That focus and resolve helped Duke turn humiliation into a coronation in a year's time. To follow that same flight plan, the Bruins must do three things:
* Let their underdog status set them free.
Like UCLA, Duke '91 lost three starters but came back strong to win its league. ...
Hurley remembers how the talk of UNLV as a super power worked as motivation for the Blue Devils. In truth, Vegas was a super power: winner of 45 straight games, ranked No. 1 all season, undefeated, crushing NCAA Tournament opponents by an average of nearly 18 points a game.
As the punditry assembled in Indy predicted Duke Devastation II, the Devils quietly bristled.
"I listened to a lot of that for a week leading up to that," Hurley said. "I think that added fuel to our fire. We knew how good we were playing. Internally, we did believe we could beat them."
I actually forgot that Duke also lost a bunch of starters in the interim, too. This is starting to feel better all the time.
More from Forde:* Prove a point early.
Duke established that there would be no hangover from 1990, and no intimidation either. It took a 14-6 lead on Vegas in '91. ...
"There's no mystery what's going to be in the mind of our players," Afflalo said. "But at the same time, you don't want to come out overly excited. But we want to beat Florida."
Yeah, we'd all want to jump down their throats, rip out their six of their ribs, climb out their noses, and go Pilipino stick-dancing with some Gator bones within the first 5 minutes, but I like knowing that AA -- our sometimes over-fiery emotional leader -- realizes the importance of keeping a cool head.* Keep their heads and execute late.
After the emotion wears off, it will be time to simply perform. The longer the game remains in the balance, the more the pressure should shift to the shoulders of the favorite and defending champion.
UNLV '91 rarely was caught in a close game, especially after rolling through the Big West Conference at 18-0. Duke, on the other hand, was tested often in going 11-3 in the ACC.
"We were really battle-tested," Hurley said. "I think their conference schedule didn't really prepare them very well. We put that game pressure on 'em."
THAT is my favorite part of the column. Like I said earlier in the week, I'm not a big fan of the "we've had a whole week to prepare" argument. If it brings you comfort, embrace it. As for me, I prefer knowing that WE'VE BEEN PREPARING THE WHOLE YEAR. I don't know if BH has been studying game tape of last year's Final since last April, but just by looking our schedule, I think we've been preparing for Florida and the Final 4 all year.
We've played so-called 'bigger' teams (Stanford, Pitt, Washington), 'faster' teams (Kansas, Washington, Oregon, $C), and 'defensive' teams (Kansas, Indiana, Washington State, and even $@#!^%* $C).
We've beaten them all -- maybe faltered once or twice against them, but beaten them ALL.
WE ARE READY.
BRING 'EM ON.