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Caulton Tudor

Stacked Midwest hardly a bargain for Duke

Posted March 20

Maybe the fifth time will be the charm for Duke in Raleigh.

Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils have won four NCAA titles, but they’ve never won one after having gone through Raleigh en route to the Final Four.

And really, only one of those Raleigh visits happened after Krzyzewski was hired in 1980. That was in 2004, when the Blue Devils, seeded No. 1 in the Atlanta Regional, opened the tournament here with wins over Alabama State and Seton Hall.

After Raleigh, the Devils stopped Illinois and Xavier in Atlanta but then fell to Connecticut at the San Antonio semifinals. UConn then wiped out another ACC team, Georgia Tech, for the championship.

Under Vic Bubas, Duke met similar fates after starting in Raleigh, at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum in those days.
Bubas’ 1964 team won the East title by beating Villanova and Connecticut, then reached the title game in Kansas City before losing to UCLA.

Bubas’ 1966 Devils won another East title in Reynolds – beating St. Joseph’s and Syracuse – but then lost to Kentucky in the Final Four semifinals in College Park, Md.

And, of course, there was the day no one in these parts cares to remember – March 11, 1979, or “Black Sunday” – when Duke lost to St. John’s and UNC lost to Penn in Reynolds.

Midwest Regional toughest

This Duke team, seeded third in the Midwest, faces an uphill challenge in its hopes to reach the Dallas-area Final Four.

Then again, so do Midwest No. 1 seed Wichita State, second-seeded Michigan, fourth-seeded Louisville and everyone else in the regional.

That’s because the Midwest easily rates as the most difficult of the four – the upshot of the selection/seeding committee having clearly under-seeded Louisville and No. 8 Kentucky and then kicking in First Four survivors N.C. State at No. 12 (defeating Xavier) and Tennessee at No. 11, which got past Iowa in overtime Wednesday night in Dayton.

Duke should get past 14th-seeded Mercer on Friday without much of a scare. But against the Volunteers or sixth-seeded Massachusetts on Sunday, the situation will get dicey.

Both teams have solid guard play and, yes, Tennessee beat Virginia by 35 points in the regular season. Atlantic 10 heavyweight Massachusetts (24-8) has averaged 76 points and beat Boston College, Clemson, LSU, New Mexico, Nebraska and BYU among others outside the conference.

Wahoos hottest in East

ACC regular-season and tournament champ Virginia landed the top seed in the East Regional and should have a relatively easy time winning two in PNC Arena.

Starting with Coastal Carolina on Friday in the 9:30 p.m. game, the Cavaliers should get to New York for next weekend’s Regional semifinals in part because the East looks to be the easiest of the regionals on paper.

Virginia’s NCAA record is only 1-3 since the end of the Terry Holland/Jeff Jones era in 1998, and Tony Bennett’s 2012 team got fried by Florida (71-45) in its first NCAA game.

But with their bevy of perimeter shooters, suffocating defense and ability to milk the shot clock, these Wahoos have the look of a Final Four qualifier. Tourney experience has to be a concern and they aren’t built to play from behind, but the Cavs earned their No. 1 seed.

Raleigh dance card

FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE
MIDWEST
No. 3 Duke (26-8) v. No. 14 Mercer (26-8), 12:15 p.m. on WRAL-TV and 99.9 FM The Fan.
No. 6 UMass (24-8) v. No. 11 Tennessee (22-12), 2:45 p.m. on WRAL-TV and 99.9 FM The Fan.

EAST
No. 1 Virginia (28-6) v. No. 16 Coastal Carolina (21-12), 9: 25 p.m. on TBS and 620 AM The Buzz
No. 8 Memphis (23-9) v. George Washington (24-8), p.m., 6:55 p.m. on TBS and 99.9 FM The Fan

SUNDAY SCHEDULE
Will be determined late Friday

TEN TO WATCH
Jabari Parker, Duke, 6-8, Fr.
Rodney Hood, Duke, 6-8, So.
Langston Hall, Mercer, 6-4, Sr.
Chaz Williams, UMass, 5-9, Sr.
Jordan McRae, Tennessee, 6-6, Sr.
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia, 6-5, So.
Joe Harris, Virginia, 6-6, Sr.
Joe Jackson, Memphis, 6-1, Sr.
Maurice Creek, GWU, 6-5, Sr.
Elijah Wilson, C. Carolina, 6-4, Fr.

TIDBITS

Coastal Carolina coach Cliff Ellis is in the tournament with his fourth different school – Clemson, Auburn, South Alabama and now Coastal Carolina. The 68-year-old coach is an accomplished singer who has made several records, primarily rhythm and blues. His coaching record is 665-426. At Clemson, he went 193-142 over 10 seasons.

Coastal Carolina’s top scorer, 6-foot-4 freshman Elijah Wilson (16.1 ppg), played high school ball at Wilmington Laney – Michael Jordan’s alma mater.

Duke didn’t visit N.C. State during the regular season. The lone regular-season game was in Durham, a 95-60 Duke romp on Jan. 18. The two met a second time last Saturday in the ACC semifinals at Greensboro with Duke winning again, 75-67. The Blue Devils’ last game in the PNC Arena was an 84-76 loss to State on Jan. 12, 2013.

It’s a long shot now but there were times during regular season when UMass had six players averaging double digit scoring and they’re still close. Seven are above 8.5 ppg mark, including subs Trey Davis (9.3) and Maxie Esho (8.8). Speedy 5-foot-9 playmaker Chaz Williams leads the team with a 15.8 average.
 

13 Comments

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  • Tizu Mar 20, 12:07 p.m.

    Toughest bracket...it will not be easy to win even 2 games. Duke has to play like they are capable or they will be out early...again.

  • jdpridg Mar 20, 12:16 p.m.

    Hope you guys can break through. Really tough bracket.

  • Gunnstigator Mar 20, 12:52 p.m.

    I don't know why the Committee always sets one bracket that is considerably more difficult than the others. I have Duke losing in the Sweet 16. You never know, though.

  • 903 Free Paul Frampton 2 Mar 20, 1:01 p.m.

    Duke will get tested by Tennessee if Tenn gets past UMass tomorrow. If Duke makes the Final 4 this year, they're definitely going to have to earn it as this team has a razor thin margin of error.

  • randdjacobs Mar 20, 2:00 p.m.

    Parker and Hood can carry this team all the way, but the margin of error is definitely slim. An off night could easily lead to talks of next year. On the bright side, Duke will be STACKED next year.

  • modukev5saysbyebye Mar 20, 2:43 p.m.

    The selection committee always puts Duke in the toughest region every year. I think it is to appease the Swoff.

  • thomasew Mar 20, 3:54 p.m.

    The selection committee usually looks after Duke, men and women. I think Duke has some inside connection with the selection committee.

  • 903 ways to fail Mar 20, 3:58 p.m.

    Lol, UNC beat multiple teams in dooks bracket. The pre season national champs should have no trouble.

  • Toddler10-21 Mar 20, 4:06 p.m.

    Here comes the excuses!! Parker and Hood can carry this team all the way? two players cant carry any team all the way. A night off is the only way Duke doesnt win. Too funny!!

  • jmcdow2792 Mar 20, 5:49 p.m.

    Of course the Mid West is a difficult Region. State is there.

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