CHESTNUT HILL — As the saying goes, you need a thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby.
No offense to BC, which with nine freshmen and two sophomores may be the youngest team among the 338 NCAA Division 1 basketball schools, but it was the longest of longshots against the thoroughbreds from Duke.
The No. 4 Blue Devils rolled 75-50 before a sellout crowd of 8,606 last night at the Conte Forum.
That talent discrepancy was evident on the final play of the first half.
Austin Rivers launched a deep 3-pointer. The rebound bounced high off the backboard and Miles Plumlee — the oldest of Duke's three 6-10/6-11 skywalking Plumlee brothers — soared over a bunch of overmatched Eagles and threw down a jaw-dropping dunk on the rebound.
Second-year Eagles coach Steve Donahue is building from scratch. With Reggie Jackson opting for the NBA last spring after his junior year and German Patrick Heckmann, arguably his best player, out with mono, BC is fighting through a tough, tough winter.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, though, says he sees some good signs from a program which enjoyed considerable success under Al Skinner (7 NCAA tourney berths in 13 years), but took a big nosedive on the floor and in recruiting at the end of his tenure.
"Most teams with almost 20 losses (BC is 8-19) would've packed it in a long time ago," said Coach K.
BC rarely if ever will have the same talent level as Duke does. To wit: in the 36-year history of the McDonald's All-American teams, BC has had two, Bill Curley and Chris Herren. And Herren played a sum total of one game at the Heights.
Duke? It has five McDonald's alums on this team and three in its freshman class alone: Rivers, Quinn Cook and Marshall Plumlee.
BC counters with a club with seven players who originally were or still are walk-ons.
By all accounts, Donahue is a sharp, driven young coach. But if he doesn't increase the talent level, the genius who guided Cornell, of all schools, to three straight NCAA tourneys, will be looking for work in 3-4 more years.
"Obviously, it's the lifeline of a program," said Donahue of recruiting. "It's critical to your success."
Insiders will tell you he'd give his left pinkie, heck, his left hand, to bring in 6-8 sophomore sensation Noah Vonleh of Haverhill and New Hampton Prep. He's already bringing in his teammate, New Hampton senior guard Olivier Hanlan from Canada.
If he brings in Noah, or some reasonable facsimiles from a suddenly fertile recruiting area within 60 or so miles of his backyard, he can have a great run. If he loses too many of those recruiting wars, it will be a series of 25-point home losses to the Dukes and North Carolinas of the world.
Duke has two players from basketball royalty in freshman Austin Rivers and junior Seth Curry. Last year's National Player of the Year, Austin is the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a 13-year NBA player. Curry is the son of Dell Curry (12,670 NBA points) and brother of Golden State's high-scoring guard Stephen Curry (17.2 ppg).
Dell and Doc, by the way, were McDonald's All-Americans.
BC can't match the basketball pedigree but walk-on Peter Rehnquist's grandfather is late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Andover's Ted and Dick Kelley bleed Maroon and Gold. Ted was a former BC hoops captain and Dick, who holds two BC degrees, is in his 21st year as a sports information director at the school.
They reconnected at the game with another Andoverite, Pacers scout Kevin Mackey, who had the great Cinderella run at Cleveland State. Mackey used to drive the Kelley boys to the BC camp when he was an assistant at the school.
A pair of 900 win coaches met before the game: BC hockey coach Jerry York (901) and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (923 wins). ... Seth Curry (18) and Austin Rivers (16) combined for 34 points. ... BC frosh Ryan Anderson led all scorers with 21 points to go with eight rebounds. Matt Humphrey added 12 points but no other Eagle had more than 6. ... Leading 13-7 3:26 into the game, BC endured a horrific 14:10 stretch in which it missed all 14 of its field goals and scored just three points.
E-mail Michael Muldoon at firstname.lastname@example.org.