Duke gets by UCF in the Round of 32 in narrow fashion


Brandon Clark, Sports Writer

After a blowout against No. 16-seed North Dakota State University in the first round, the Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team nearly faced a Tournament upset on March 25. The team came in cocky and unaware of the competition as they had won their first round match-up 85-62.

The UCF Knights were a 9-seed as they pulled off a first round upset as they beat VCU in a blowout 73-58. Only five percent of all brackets made for this year’s March Madness Tournament picked UCF to advance to the Sweet 16 and to pull off the massive upset.

The Knights had some upside though as they had their biggest defensive weapon to stop Duke’s Big 3. Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6-inch senior from Senegal  averaged 2.6 blocks per game during the course of the regular season and he would be the Knights only hope of stopping standout freshmen RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson.

All three of these Blue Devils are projected to be first round draft picks in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft as they will all go “one-and-done” at Duke. The game would be especially tough for the Knights as Zion Williamson would be playing in his home state of South Carolina for the round of 32 game.

UCF held their own for all four quarters as Fall put up 15 points and 3 blocks with 25 minutes of playing time.

The Knights seemed to have the game in the bag as they were up by 4 points with 2 minutes left to go in the game but as the Knights missed a transition layup, Cam Reddish knocked down the go ahead 3-pointer to make it a 1 point game.

UCF would go back down the court and knock down two free throws. The Blue Devils decided to dribble out the clock and once Zion Williamson of Duke got the ball, he drove to the paint, was fouled by Fall, and converted the and-1 bucket.

This caused the Knights to lose their defensive asset due to fouling out with five fouls.

The madness only gets crazier…

Zion Williamson misses his free throw at the line, UCF fails to get the rebound, RJ Barrett scores the bucket off the put-back with 8 seconds left on the clock.

The Knights call time out to discuss the upcoming possession, then they passed the ball inbounds, attempted to get the go-ahead floater, it bricks of the side of the rim, another player gets an opportunity to get the put-back bucket, and it rolls around the rim for a second, and then rolled right out.

Duke 77. UCF 76. Game. Over.

People knew that their bracket would be busted for good if the Blue Devils lost.

Senior Terry Dunbar created a bracket and was one of the 5 percent that picked the Knights.

“I actually expected the Knights to pull off the upset against Duke,” he said. “I had UCF going to the Sweet 16.”

The excitement of March Madness is the fact the outcomes are all unpredictable, and any of the 68 teams in the dance can make it to the Final Four.

The beauty of the tournament is that anything can happen. And it all resumes again tonight when the Sweet 16 games tip off.