This nonsensical Duke team had no business winning a No. 1 seed, but here we are: reading about Duke as a No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils have gaping holes on their roster -- more on those holes in a minute -- and a converted shooting guard running the point and a center who was an enormous bust for three seasons but is now becoming a star in the final month of his senior season.
Add it up, and it's two plus two equaling five. Yet here we are. Duke as a No. 1 seed.
|Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler lead the way for Duke. (US Presswire)|
Why they'll win it: Great backcourts win in March, yes, but so do great groups of upperclassmen -- and that's Duke. The Blue Devils start three seniors and two juniors, and their sixth man is a sophomore. Plus their coach knows a thing or two -- OK, three, actually -- about winning a national championship.
Why they won't: Duke doesn't have a reliable seventh man. Or a serviceable third guard. That's a major, major pair of holes on the roster.
Players to watch: Senior Jon Scheyer and juniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are the top three scorers, all averaging between 17.2 and 18.9 ppg. They combined for 65 points in the regular-season finale against North Carolina, and they have hit more than 200 3-pointers as a group this season.
Best off the bench: Sophomore C Miles Plumlee (5.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg in 17 minutes per game) started 24 times but now comes off the bench after being replaced in the starting lineup by senior Brian Zoubek. Plumlee shoots 57.5 percent from the field.
Soaring/slumping: Up -- since becoming a starter, Zoubek has averaged 7.3 points and a whopping 11.2 rebounds. Down -- freshman Andre Dawkins is the first and only guard off the bench, but after averaging more than 10 ppg through the nonconference schedule, he scored 37 points in the team's final 17 regular-season games. Total.
Notable stat: If Duke has a lead late, the game's over. Coach K can put five guys on the floor shooting 78 percent or better from line: Scheyer, Singler, Smith, Thomas and Dawkins.
Last time as a No. 1 seed: Duke was a No. 1 seed most recently in 2006, and that didn't turn out so well. The Blue Devils lost 62-54 to fourth-seeded LSU in the Sweet 16 as LSU's Tyrus Thomas, Glen Davis and Tasmin Mitchell played keep-away on the glass. The Tigers would reach the 2006 Final Four, where they rolled over and played dead against UCLA.
Last time won a national championship: Duke last won the title in 2001, blowing through the field to win all six games by double figures -- capped by an 82-72 victory against Arizona in the final. That game was close until Mike Dunleavy hit a trio of 3-pointers in a 46-second flurry of the second half.
All-time starting five: G: Jay Williams; G: J.J. Redick; F: Grant Hill; F: Art Heyman; C: Christian Laettner.
Final thought: Duke still doesn't have much backcourt quickness, a deficiency that has hurt it in recent NCAA Tournaments, but this Duke team is longer, and mentally stronger, than the groups that were upset by VCU in 2007 and West Virginia in '08.