Duke brought back their three best players (all seniors) from the previous season, while the Heels lost their top four and enjoyed only one senior and three upperclassmen in their eleven-man rotation. At various points in the season, Duke fans had very real visions of winning it all this year, while Heels fans had equally real visions of another NIT.
Which explains why I'm having so much trouble interpreting the following success-meter:
ACC Reg. Sea. Title
ACC Tourn. Title
ACC Tourn. Finish
NCAA Tourn. Finish
You'd rather be Duke in this scenario, but the measure of success isn't that dissimilar. In addition to the table above, Duke had only one more All-ACC performer (including the only first-teamer, but also the only player to tie for 16th on a 15-man team), each featured one ACC All-Freshman performer, and each netted zero ACC All-Defense honors. Neither can boast a player or coach of the year, and it took a 1-seed to knock both out of the national tournament.
In the end, both teams finished among the best in the conference and among the better teams in the nation, but neither really won anything (which is what posterity remembers, when it remembers anything at all).
This is not to in any way imply that Carolina had as good a year as Duke. The Elite Eight's a different world than the Round of 32, and there's that pesky 0-2 head-to-head record to consider. (Although, I also can't remember the last time I got to watch the Heels win and Duke lose on the same day four times in a season.)
But can somebody give me one good reason why things should have ended up so close?
"Ryan Kelly" might be a legitimate answer. But last year's Heels were absolutely PLAGUED by injuries and still managed a high success disparity in these same categories compared with the lesser of Tobacco Road's finest:
Reg. Sea. Title
ACC Tourn. Title
4 (3 1st-team)
3 (2 3rd-team)
So, is it really all about injury for Duke this season?
Here's my take (and it's one that's proved true far more often in recent years than it's proved false): Duke just isn't as good as Duke thinks it is. Or, at least, not as good as it thinks it should be, which must have some connection to the Blue Devils' prevailing trend of being a much better regular season team than post-season one.
I don't know why this is. And I don't have a Disappointment-Meter--but my guess is it's registering pretty high in Durham today.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.