As the Blue Devils wrapped up their first trip to the Final Four since 2004, non-Duke fans all around the country groaned (at best) when it became official that the Dookies would be playing for a spot in the National Championship game. But how did it come to this? How was Duke able to get past Baylor on Sunday? The answer is simple, says Eamonn Brennan (who used to roam these SBNation halls): offensive rebounding.
Quite simply, Duke outrebounded Baylor on the offensive end, grabbing 22 offensive rebounds and using those added possessions to get quick putbacks and earn trips to the free throw line. The Blue Devils grabbed 53.5 percent of their misses, 10 percentage points higher than the average of the most effective offensive rebounding teams in the country. Frankly, Duke dominated on the offensive glass, and in the coming week, when the cascade of "Duke is elite again" stories begins to flow, Coach K and company will have offensive rebounding to thank.
Taking a deeper look at the rest of the Final Four field, and extending it to the Elite Eight, and you'd quickly see that this "offensive rebounding" thing is a pretty important key to winning a basketball game.
Three of the four Final Four teams convening in Indianapolis this week -- Duke, Michigan State and West Virginia -- rank among the top 10 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (Duke is No. 8, MSU is No. 7, and WVU is No. 2). Of the eight teams that played this weekend, five were ranked in that same top 10. Including Baylor, six of those teams were ranked in the top 25. Butler and Tennessee don't rank in the top 100. Only the Bulldogs, who eschew board-crashing in order to get back and set up a half-court defense that's yet to allow an opponent 60 points in any game in the NCAA tournament, have joined the aforementioned three in the Final Four.