Thursday, February 08, 2007

Heels Keep Duke On Course For Winless February

On January 28, Duke notched an impressive 75-61 victory over Boston College. The win was the fifth in a row for the Blue Devils as they closed out the month. However, the subsequent month has been far less kind to Mike Krzyzewski’s team. Duke appears doomed to endure a winless February.

Last night, the Blue Devils fell to 0-3 during the month with a 79-73 setback to hated rival North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Freshmen carried the day on both sides. Jon Scheyer led Duke with a career-high 26 points, while Brandan Wright paced the Tar Heels with 19. Ty Lawson made the difference for UNC with several key plays down the stretch. These standouts would be the week’s most notable Diaper Dandies, if not for psycho astronaut Lisa Nowak.

The victory was Carolina’s second consecutive in Durham, so DeMarcus Nelson is the only Blue Devil to have played in a win over the Heels in Cameron. Sophomore point guard Greg Paulus has not been so fortunate. Yesterday was also national signing day for college football, so his brother Mike made it official that he will play quarterback down the road in Chapel Hill. Unlike Greg, Mike will never have to worry about winning UNC-Duke matchups.

Duke’s misfortune appeared to spread to its alumni in the NBA Wednesday night. Every player from Duke who saw action wound up with a loss. That group was represented by J.J. Redick, Elton Brand, Daniel Ewing, Mike Dunleavy, and Dahntay Jones. Four other Dukies had “DNP” next to their names in the box scores, including Redick’s Orlando Magic teammate Grant Hill. His missing a game due to injury is equally as surprising as seeing Duke players lose in the NBA.

As for the current Blue Devils, their February miseries began with a 68-66 overtime defeat at Virginia on February 1, as Sean Singletary nailed the game-winner with one second remaining. Their next loss came against Florida State, which notched its first victory in Cameron after 15 defeats. Redick’s number was retired at halftime. In a fitting tribute to his Duke days, the Blue Devils failed to hit a shot with the game on the line.

After last night’s defeat, it is clear that February will bring nothing but pain for Duke. In the post-game press conference, Coach K remarked, “I think the key to the game was OW, MY BACK!!!” If he manages to make the trip to Maryland this Sunday, he will surely want to take a side visit to the White House. It could be the only time all month that Coach K gets to see a W.

Duke’s February struggles are relevant to numerous aspects associated with the month. February is well-known as Black History Month. Blue Devil fans are honoring the occasion by reflecting on heroes such as Johnny Dawkins, Grant Hill, and Shane Battier – desperately wishing they could still suit up for Duke. Also, the birthstone for February is the purple gem amethyst. On exposure to heat, amethyst generally becomes yellow. The same is true of Duke center Josh McRoberts.

Several notable days in February also relate to the Blue Devils. On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil did not predict six more weeks of winter. However, Phil was reportedly heard whispering, “But Duke has four more weeks of losing.” On Valentine’s Day, the Devils will visit Boston College. In a nod to the Kay Jewelers commercials, the key phrase for Krzyzewski’s poor shooters will be “Every miss begins with K.” Finally, Presidents’ Day will bring a reminder that the only Duke alumnus to serve as U.S. President was Richard Nixon. Like the man who left office more than two years early, Duke’s struggles during crunch time show that they can’t finish the job, either.

The Blue Devils will get another crack at UNC on March 4. They will be decisive underdogs to knock off Roy Williams and his Tar Heels in the Dean Smith Center. But at least they won’t be in February anymore.