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Tudor: Lack of depth dooms Duke

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The overwhelming depth advantage that carried Louisville past Duke on Sunday is exactly why the Cardinals are favored to win the NCAA basketball title next Monday in Atlanta.

In an 85-63 Midwest Regional title win over the Blue Devils in Indianapolis, Louisville coach Rick Pitino used eight players for at least 15 minutes.

And that's not counting sophomore guard Kevin Ware, who suffered a broken leg after playing seven minutes in the first half.

Even with forward Ryan Kelly in foul trouble almost immediately, Duke got 17 minutes out of reserve guard Tyler Thornton and 11 minutes from Josh Hairston. That was basically it from the subs.

A short bench, figuratively and literally, was a problem all season for Mike Krzyzewski. But even with Kelly (foot injury) missing 13 games and top shooter Seth Curry (shoulder) in pain all season, Duke still finished 30-6 and outlasted ACC champ Miami in the NCAA Tournament.

But with Kelly in foul trouble and Curry pinned down by defensive double teams on the perimeter, the numbers issue finally did Duke in against Louisville.

"They wear you down," Krzyzewski said.

Those four words summed it up perfectly. There were factors -- primarily the grab, bump and hold tactics used to snarl Curry's movement -- but the Cards' depth trumped the board.

Krzyzewski and his staff return to Durham and a depleted frontcourt. Senior big men Kelly and Mason Plumlee will have to be replaced, and Curry's departure will drain the outside the offense.

The likely perimeter nucleus for next season will be rising junior Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon (sophomore), Thornton (senior) and possibly fifth-year senior Andre Dawkins, who red-shirted this season.

Inside, Hairston (senior), Alex Murphy (sophomore), Marshall Plumlee (sophomore) and Amile Jefferson (sophomore) will return and join transfer Rodney Hood (6-8, 210, sophomore) from Mississippi State.

Hood averaged 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 2011-12 to make the All-SEC freshman team.

Three recruits have been signed, the most important of whom is 6-8, 220-pound Jabari Parker from Chicago.

Kansan Semi Ojeleye (6-6, 215) and Texan Matt Jones (6-4, 180) also will be added to the mix.

Parker, rated among the top three or four incoming freshmen in the nation, will play right away, likely joining Hood and possibly the 6-11 Plumlee and Hairston in the primary inside rotation.

How the Blue Devils will stack up in a new-look ACC will depend in large part on NBA draft decisions by players at other schools, especially North Carolina and Maryland.

The '13 team will look back on what might have been. When the Devils were placed in the region with overall top seed Louisville, eyebrows went up. There's a decent chance Duke could have reached the Final Four out of any other regional.

But Louisville's depth was too much to overcome.

 

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