DUKE DOWNS NORTH CAROLINA AGAIN
The Blue Devils completed the regular season sweep of rival North Carolina on Saturday, taking down the Tar Heels with ease, 69-53, in Chapel Hill in the regular season finale. The regular season sweep over the Tar Heels was Duke's second in the last four years and the eighth time under Coach K. Duke has now won in the Dean E. Smith Center in three of the last four meetings, although the 16-point win Saturday was Duke's biggest on North Carolina's home floor since an 87-58 win on Jan. 31, 2002.
North Carolina had no answer for senior Seth Curry, who hit his first seven shots and had 18 points by halftime. Curry's sharp shooting put Duke ahead 14-0 before North Carolina's first bucket. Mason Plumlee dominated the paint the rest of the way, finishing with 23 points and 13 rebounds for his ACC-leading 17th double-double. Defensively, Duke held North Carolina in check from three-point range as the Tar Heels hit just 1-of-14 three-pointers after missing their first 11.
Duke and North Carolina could easily meet again in the upcoming ACC Tournament as the teams are headed for a semifinal showdown Saturday if both win in Friday's quarterfinals. No team has won all three meetings in the same season since Duke's 2001-02 team.
SENIORS GO OUT ON TOP
For seniors Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Tuesday night's win over Virginia Tech capped a remarkable four years in which they won the national championship in 2009-10, won back-to-back ACC Championships in 2010 and 2011 and were ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 every single week that they were Blue Devils. Curry, Kelly and Plumlee went 63-3 in Cameron Indoor Stadium during their careers, including the 85-57 win over Virginia Tech on Senior Night.
"It was a strange feeling," Ryan Kelly said about the time leading up to his final home game Tuesday. "I normally get here two and a half hours before to start all my therapy and things, and I was sitting there trying not to think about what it was going to be when it was over. I wanted to sound decent when I did my speech, but I didn't want to think about it because I wanted to think about the game. So it's very strange, full of mixed emotions right before the game starts, but once you get out there those all go away and you just play basketball."
And play basketball those three did, combining for 52 points to cap another undefeated season in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was quick to draw attention to the fact that Curry, Kelly and Plumlee were not only three of the best players in the ACC, but are all examples of what has become the now scarce four-year college player.
"It is unique and it makes you remember the times where that was always the case," Krzyzewski said. "There's no question that it's not just becoming a better basketball player - they become men. They're going to graduate from Duke. They're great students, they're older, they get it. As this goes on over the four years you're in a program, you're going to learn more your third and fourth year more because you can receive more. These guys are sponges and they wanted it.
ACC TOURNAMENT ON THE HORIZON
Duke will compete for its 20th ACC Tournament Championship this weekend at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The Blue Devils have made a habit of making championship runs through the conference tournament, reaching the championship game 30 times since the league's inception in 1953-54 and doing so 18 times under Coach K. Duke owns the No. 2 seed in this year's tournament, a position that has yielded a 27-10 ACC Tournament record and four ACC titles. After a first round bye during Thursday's action, Duke will face the winner of seventh-seeded Maryland and 10th-seeded Wake Forest Friday at 7 p.m. With a win, Duke would advance to the semifinals to take on either second-seeded North Carolina, sixth-seeded Florida State or 11th-seeded Clemson. ACC Regular Season Champion Miami earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
KELLY NAMED ACC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
It didn't take long for Ryan Kelly to gain the attention of the ACC again. Following his epic return in the 79-76 win over No. 5 Miami on March 2, Kelly earned ACC Player of the Week honors on Monday. It was the second league honor of the season for Kelly, who sank a career-high 10 field goals and seven three-pointers in a performance Coach K called "One for the ages." Kelly's ACC Player of the Week award was the league-leading sixth for a Duke player this season.
COACH K RECEIVES DICK ENBERG AWARD
Coach K will be honored as the recipient of the 2013 Dick Enberg Award, presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Krzyzewski will receive the award as part of the fourth annual Capital One Academic All-America Hall of Fame Gala on Wednesday, June 12 at CoSIDA's annual convention in Orlando, Fla., which for the first time will be part of the annual NACDA Convention. Established in 1997, the Dick Enberg Award is given annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America® Teams Program and/or the student-athlete while promoting the values of education and academics. The award was created in part to recognize Dick Enberg's passion and support of the Academic All-America® program for the past 20 years and more importantly, his dedication to education for more than four decades.
PLUMLEE & SULAIMON UP FOR USBWA AWARDS
Senior Mason Plumlee and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon were named finalists for U.S. Basketball Writers Association awards on Monday. Plumlee is one of 14 outstanding players selected as finalists for its 2013 Oscar Robertson National Player of the Year Trophy presented by Aflac, while Sulaimon is among eight standout freshmen competing for the Integris Wayman Tisdale Award. The recipients will be announced on Friday, April 5 in Atlanta at a 9:15 a.m. ET press conference and then formally presented their awards at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on Mon., April 15 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Previous Duke winners of the Robertson Trophy (formerly the USBWA National Player of the Year Award) are Art Heyman, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams and J.J. Redick.
MORE ACADEMIC HONORS POUR IN
As if a perfect home record, another win over North Carolina and the start of the ACC Tournament weren't enough to celebrate, an ACC-leading four Blue Devils earned spots on the All-ACC Academic Basketball Team Thursday. Headlining the group was two-time Academic All-America Mason Plumlee, who was joined by classmate Ryan Kelly and freshmen Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon. Both Kelly and Plumlee appeared on the team for the third time, becoming the 10th and 11th players at Duke to earn three All-ACC Academic citations.
PLUMLEE A FINALIST FOR WOODEN AWARD
Yet another honor came in for Mason Plumlee this week, as the senior forward was named one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, which is annually handed to the top player in college basketball. Plumlee is one of three ACC players on the list of finalists and one of only four seniors. Five Duke players have won the Wooden Award, including Christian Laettner, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Jason Williams and J.J. Redick.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Duke has swept North Carolina in football (1-0), men's basketball (2-0) and women's basketball (2-0) this season for the first time since 2003-04.
Seth Curry survives and thrives (Raleigh News & Observer)
If Kyrie Irving's knee keeps bothering him, Cavs may shut him down (ProBasketballTalk.com)
Hornets lose Rivers to broken hand (Yahoo! Sports)
Battier just shoots threes (USA Today)
8 years of craziness: The Sam Tasher Story (Duke Chronicle)
Dick Vitale's crush on Duke: A Scorecard (Wall Street Journal)
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
Ryan Phifer @rphifer35
@DickieV saying Jose Fonseca @BestCutManInMBB is Duke MVP. Great trainer and you should hear him sing La Bamba!
JJ Redick @JJRedick
Good win for the @Bucks. Better win for Duke. #letsgobucks #letsgoduke
Dave Telep @DaveTelep
Duke's three best players are NC HS players. That's a first in this rivalry. UNCs three best players are two NC kids and a VA guy
Conner Vernon @connerRvernon
Shout out to @Duke_MBB and the homies @tythornton3 and @jhairston15 for the big win tonight #1seed #domination
mason plumlee @masonplumlee
Thanks to my family friends and duke nation for making senior night a special night and thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes also!