DIBIASE: Sweet 16 matchup will leave some feeling blue

Justin Dibiase

There are so many shades of blue: cobalt, azure, baby, royal, steel, sky, cornflower, navy, Persian. Each shade is only separated by a few nanometers on the light spectrum. On this particular day there are two unique shades of blue that will douse the canvas of the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.

One shade is darker, more menacing than the other. It is found on faces, arms and puffed-out stomachs of a group known as the ‘Nova Nation.

The other shade is bluer, more well-known. It is found on faces, arms and puffed-out stomachs of a group known as the “Cameron Crazies.”

There’s Villanova blue, and then there’s Duke blue. The spirited fusion of the two will spill into Boston tonight. It’s a matchup that has been wished for, imagined and often dreamed about.

Duke is college basketball’s golden program. Its blue defines consistency and East Coast basketball.

Villanova is a beacon of hope for a beaten college basketball city. The Big 5 grows weaker as Villanova grows stronger. A quick glimpse of the media guide will suggest that Jay Wright is building a program that resembles that of Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils.

As much as the two colors differ, the institutions are surprisingly similar. Duke was established in 1838 while Villanova was born four years later in 1842. Duke boasts over 6,200 undergraduates, while ‘Nova has a few more with 6,300 undergrads.

It would be hard to argue that both schools’ magnificent chapels aren’t the lasting icons of both campuses.

Aside from basketball, both universities have solid academic reputations. Both schools offer unparalleled engineering schools as well as top-tier graduate educations.

The Pavilion and Cameron Indoor Stadium are both quirky college basketball venues that are both warm and fuzzy to their home teams and hostile and cold to the opposition. At the time of its construction, Cameron Indoors was the largest gymnasium south of the Palestra.

For all the ways in which they are similar, there are even more things that draw them apart. Villanova’s suburban campus is squeezed into 254 acres while Duke is spread out on their 9,350 acres of land. Duke was founded by Methodists and Quakers; ‘Nova was started by the Augustinian order.

And about that basketball game … the clash of the two blues will truly be an exhibition of styles. Duke brings a half-court style that limits opponents’ fast breaks. Duke finished last in scoring in the ACC, but finished first in team defense. It is a relatively young team with five non-seniors as starters.

Villanova, meanwhile, thrives on the fast break. They are faster and more athletic than Duke and will look to push the ball against the ACC’s golden boys.

Scottie Reynolds and Gerald Henderson are their respective teams’ heart and soul. Both are juniors and have an uncanny ability to simply win games. Reynolds is a slasher who can be deadly from beyond the arc. Henderson is more explosive and can finish with authority around the rim. The Sweet 16 matchup will hinge on the performances of these two stars.

Kyle Singler and Dante Cunningham are frontcourt warriors. For Duke, Singler is a dual threat; he can score from inside and out. Cunningham, meanwhile, is a better defender and has an improved face-up game, but his shooting range does not extend out to 3-point territory. This clash of styles should be a treat to watch tonight.

Both teams offer a dynamic sophomore guard. Duke’s Nolan Smith is an explosive 6-2 scorer who has NBA written all over his game. Like Corey Fisher, Smith is averaging about 20 minutes a game. Fisher is physically stronger, but Smith can create a myriad of shots off the dribble.

Jon Scheyer and Reggie Redding are the Mr. Everythings for their respective teams. Both junior guards can do pretty much everything on the court. Redding’s a Philly guy, and his hometown also describes his game: tough, gritty, proud. Scheyer can fill it up when Henderson and Singler are struggling. His 3-point shot reminds some of J.J. Redick.

Both teams have strong supporting casts as well. Dwayne Anderson’s emergence has carried ‘Nova to the round of 16. Shane Clark and Corey Stokes’ steady play have given headaches to postseason opponents. For Duke, Lance Thomas and Greg Paulus have provided leadership to the young Blue Devils.

Then, there are those coaches. Wright walks into a room, and the spotlight rushes to him. His bubbly personality floats through the room and his ease off the court draws people to him like a magnet.

Krzyzewski enters the room with a quiet sternness. You wouldn’t know he was a Hall of Famer by his unassuming presence. Yet once he starts talking you cannot help but listen. He exudes knowledge and he commands respect. He is the best, and after listening to him for a short time, you instantly know why.

Like everything else in this matchup, they are different, but they share an ability to achieve success; to get everything out of their players not only physically but academically and as people. They don’t graduate basketball players. They graduate men.

So tonight it’s blue against blue; the establishment versus the up-and-comer. There may still be 16 teams left in the tournament, but on the Main Line, there might as well be two.

There’s nothing more to do now except sit back and let the best blue win.


Justin DiBiase is a senior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].