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Matt Norlander

Duke won because of its terrific play, not bad officiating

The Dagger

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on't be that person. Please, please, PLEASE don't be that person.

Here we were thinking Tennessee-Michigan State would be the officiating controversy that bled over from Sunday into Monday. How foolish of us; Duke was still to play, after all, and with Duke comes all the sycophants who whine about all the calls it gets.

As you read this, ask yourself if you're going to be another voice in a myopic chorus or if you're going to look at what really happened in the game that led to Duke winning 78-71 over Baylor.

Right now the blood's in the water, the crazies are on the lookout for the black helicopters and the conspiracies must be true: Duke was handed the game! CBS and the NCAA need the Blue Devils in the Final Four because of ratings, so they told the officials to give Duke the calls!

Final foul tally: Baylor 21, Duke 15. Players fouled out: Duke 1, Baylor 1.

If you're looking for a place to direct your anger, how about sending it the way of Quincy Acy, Ekpe Udoh, Josh Lomers and Anthony Jones. The big Bears' front line of guys could not stop Duke from grabbing 22 offensive rebounds. Twenty-freaking-two. That's absurd. That's your ball game. And specifically, it was three big offensive boards — two by Lance Thomas, one by Mason Plumlee — followed up by back-breaking 3-pointers — two by Jon Scheyer, one by Nolan Smith — late in the second half that sealed this game for the Blue Devils.

You want more evidence why Duke won this game and how it had nothing to do with the officials? Oh, I'm fully loaded and prepared to give it to you.

Duke won this game because it played better. Because it deserved to win. Baylor gave it a very tough battle, but the Bears shot poorly from deep (28 percent), while Duke certainly did not (48 percent). The Blue Devils shot better from the foul line (79 percent to Baylor's 63). Surprisingly, each team had 11 turnovers. Mistakes felled the Bears at times this year, but the stat sheet kind of mistakes weren't the ones that cost Scott Drew's team on Sunday.

Smith had 29 points. Scheyer had 20. Both combined for nine 3-pointers, which absolutely killed Baylor. Duke scored 1.25 points per possession — that was the most Baylor had given up all season.

Now, if you'd like to relive the charge call, we've got the video. I'll show it to you first before I talk about how it was the right decision.

Zoubek plants his feet. It's a tough call, but I believe it's the right one. Acy leans his body into Zoubek and takes a gamble, probably thinking Zoubek's going to get his fifth foul there. But even if the call's wrong, does it alter the game? Absolutely not.

For those of you who claim this was the call that changed the momentum in the game: How do you explain Baylor coming back and taking a 61-60 lead less than 60 seconds later? And Zoubek fouled out two minutes later anyway after contributing nothing other than one defensive rebound.

Oh, would you like to talk about the technical foul? Is that where your anger lies? The T on Acy wasn't brought up at Baylor's press conference, so that shows you how much the players and the media thought of it, but here's Scheyer's take:

"Yeah, those were two of the biggest plays of the game. Zoubek especially coming over with a guy like Acy, too, it takes a lot of guts. And it was a big swing. Instead of ending, I think it was four, it's a two-point game, we're still in it. With Lance, he had a couple of plays where he kept the ball alive, which he doesn't necessarily get credit for, it's not a stat. And then the tip and dunk was just a huge play. Really a huge play. If not the biggest, one of the biggest of the game."

Udoh spoke about the charge.

"I mean, it wasn't that big. I mean, you know, the ref made the call. We didn't get the stop. If we would have gotten the stop, it wouldn't have been as big."

Should have there been a double-technical? I wouldn't have cared. But I think there shouldn't have been a call at all. Let the emotions run and so long as nobody really gets out of hand, just separate the parties and move on. Even so, Duke's winning that game if a technical isn't called. I think that's pretty clear.

All this anger about Duke advancing stems from a lot of things, but it's unfortunate that this team (which is much less hateable than a lot of its predecessors) is getting a lot of flak thrown its way because it outplayed a tough Baylor team that failed to stop it. Hate all you want (and I've done it in the past), but it's not going to change the fact Duke was the only 1-seed to reach the Final Four. And if you'd like to play the cynical card there as well, let me remind you that puh-lenty of people had Baylor beating Duke in what turned out to be a legitimate road game.

The Blue Devils are back in the Final Four. The immediate vitriolic reaction Sunday night proved they never left us as an enemy.

Matt Norlander is the editor of College Hoops Journal. You can follow his commentary of the NCAA tournament on Twitter.

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