This is the seventh in a series of Duke’s All-Decade teams, as named by various Chronicle writers, past and present. At the end of the series, you will be able to vote for your own All-Decade team, and your votes will determine The Sports Blog’s final choice. Stay tuned over the next two weeks for more All-Decade choices.
I would make some big deal about writing in this space for the first time in several months, but Shiner kind of already did that, and if there’s one adjective that I don’t want modifying my name, it’s derivative. I will, however, point out that we still have my picture here for the blog–the sight of which makes me feel as warm inside as A Charlie Brown Christmas or a shot of vodka.
The first step in any argument about clutch-ness (or really, most nouns) is to define terms.* I am not one of those highfalutin elitists who argues incessantly with television commentators that there is no such thing as being clutch. I am also not one of those television commentators or incessant fans who constantly label players as clutch and not clutch. The truth is that the large majority of athletes are just as good or as bad in clutch situations as they are otherwise. There is a very select group of individuals who do in fact perform better under pressure than they do in normal circumstances; the problem with this is that nobody in that select group played basketball for Duke this decade.
*And yes, it is here that I should apologize for using the “All-Decade Team” banner on a post that doesn’t name five players. I wouldn’t dream of being perceived as hypocritical, either.
The initial idea was to write about the best clutch performers for the Duke men’s basketball team; unfortunately, that potential list would require us to broaden our definition of clutch to an almost absurd degree and to overlook essentially unclutch things like missing game-tying free throws or disappearing for long stretches in significant games. For the problem, it would seem, with the Blue Devils this decade has been nothing short of a lack of clutchness. Duke has turned six No. 1 seeds into two Final Fours. It has been upset in the NCAA Tournament eight of the last 10 years. In the entire decade, the Blue Devils have won a single postseason game as a worse-seeded team-and that was when the 2001 title team (ACC No. 2) beat North Carolina (ACC No. 1) in the ACC Tournament final.