A rival Atlantic Coast Conference coach suggested that Duke's Bill Foster had assembled his starting line up by walking up to a computer and pushing the buttons marked with the prototype for each position.
The pieces of machinery that allegedly came tumbling out ran the fast break with computer-like efficiency yesterday, wiping out Villanova, 90-72, for the East berth in the NCAA semi-finals.
Duke will meet Midwest champion Notre Dame Saturday in St. Louis. Kentucky will represent the Mideast and play West winner Arkansas in the other semifinal. Game times are 2:15 and 4:15 p.m. EST. The championship game will be played Monday night, March 27.
There were stirring touches of humanity attached to Duke's machine-like victory, which became all but official after the Blue Devils raced to a 21-6 lead, scoring 10 on the fast break.
Jim Spanarkel, the big shooting guard, ran the fast break, led the team in scoring with 22 points and won the tournament MVP award despite a sprained ankle that had become more swollen and painful since Friday's win over Pennsylvania.
Gene Banks, the power forward scored 17 points, had 10 rebounds and acted just like the freshman he is after the victory. With the Blue Devil mascot's pitchfork in his right hand and scissors in his left, he clipped off the net and wore it around his neck.
Later he talked about meditating, beating a school from his hometown and his stuffed doggie named Twinks, who was brought to the game for good luck, along with a Bible.
The shooting forward (Kenny Dennard), dominating center (Mike Gminski) and small quick guard (John Harrell) joined the others in jubilation over having proven a point.The first two NCAA victories had been shaky - a 63-62 win over Rhode Island and an 84-80 victory over Penn.
Perhaps in a foolish moment of distress, Penn Coach Bob Weinhauer made some insulting remarks about Duke to a handful of writers and the published comments irked the Duke players.
Weinhauser said that ACC basketball "is a myth," that Duke is "a very slow team. Only Harrell is quick. Banks is average. There are several schools that are as good." And he ended it by picking Villanova to win by virtue of its quicker guards.
On Duke's side there had been admission that the team wasn't playing well, but Weinhauer apparently had ruled out the possibility that the Blue Devils could as Gminski put it, "shake the cobwebs off and play the way we used to play."
With Gminski's 21 points and 10 rebounds shoving Villanova into a perimeter game, the Wildcats never made a serious run at the Blue Devils, who now are 26-6.
"I was upset by what he (Weinhauer) said about us," said Gminksi. "Maybe he thought what he had seen was the way we always play, but in the last two games we've been in a slump.
"When someone gets on you like that, we felt we had something to prove. I could just feel it the team, in the locker room, in the huddles. I knew we were going to come out and have a good game. This is the way we play and I think we can continue this way."
"What he said fired us up," said Dennard, whose uncontested, two-handed backward dunk highlighted his 16-point performance. "It bothered me. I guess maybe I'm used to a little more classy league. Dean Smith (North Carolina coach) never says anything bad about other players."
"He got us psyched up," said Banks. "I could see him saying those things if he had won.
"We decided to pick ourselves up and play Duke basketball. What is Duke basketball? What you just saw. And we still have better games to play."
Foster admitted that he had worried that that his players were losing confidence after the two close NCAA games.
"But we down-keyed it," said Foster. "Why dwell on it?
"Weinhauer's comments didn't win it for us. I just can't say enough about the way we put it all together. We rebounded with a vengence. We had four hands on the ball a lot of times. We had about 10 uncontested layups. We scored in every conceivable way. We just played a great game."
Duke had a 40-30 edge on the boards, shot 65 percent and forced Villanova to play a catch-up game and man-to-man defense, even though the Wildcats start no one over 6-foot-6. Mackin High School graduate Keith Herron ended his career as Villanova's all-time leading scorer with 20 points to lead his team and earn an all-tournament.