Some other teams have a better starting five. Lots of other teams have more depth. But nobody in the 2006 NCAA Tournament has a better pair of players than J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. All of which makes Duke susceptible ... but formidable.
The Blue Devils are a No. 1 seed. That's what they are. Here's who they are.
|Mike Krzyzewski will badger the refs, as well as his own players, in pursuit of victory. (AP)|
Season's low point: Losing to North Carolina is not good. Losing to North Carolina at home is worse. Losing to North Carolina at home on senior day? Awful. Duke was manhandled March 4 by the less experienced Tar Heels 83-76.
Cutting the nets if: Redick gets back to his 30-ppg efficiency, Williams stays out of foul trouble and someone else -- Sean Dockery? Josh McRoberts? -- provides a solid third scoring option.
Crying back home if: Duke draws an opponent that specializes in defensive harassment, and then point guard Greg Paulus plays like the freshman he is rather than the savvy veteran he sometimes appears to be. Or if Redick goes cold and no one -- Lee Melchionni? DeMarcus Nelson? -- picks up his perimeter slack. Or if Williams fouls out with several minutes left in a close game. Lots of ways. Yet it hasn't happened much this season. Ponder that.
X-factor: Other than Redick, no one for Duke shoots more 3-pointers than Melchionni. Problem is, he doesn't shoot them all that well (33.5 percent). But when Melchionni's got it going -- and he can get it going -- Duke's not going to lose that day.
|PG: Greg Paulus||6-2||Fr.|
|Statistics: 6.2 ppg, 5.2 apg|
|SG: Sean Dockery||6-2||Sr.|
|Statistics: 8.0 ppg, 2.8 apg|
|SG: J.J. Redick||6-4||Sr.|
|Statistics: 27.8 ppg, 2.7 apg|
|PF: Josh McRoberts||6-10||Fr.|
|Statistics: 8.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg|
|C: Shelden Williams||6-9||Sr.|
|Statistics: 18.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg|
|SF: DeMarcus Nelson||6-3||So.|
|Statistics: 7.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg|
|SG: Lee Melchionni||6-6||Sr.|
|Statistics: 6.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg|
|Statistics through regular season|
Coaching philosophy: Mike Krzyzewski has won three national championships in 10 Final Four appearances, both numbers third all-time, by leading with the heart. He's not a coach, he's a leader. Like a general or something, only with more at stake. His life's not about games, which of course means his card is American Express. Oh, and he stokes his pile of McDonald's All-Americans into a frenzy with motivational genius. And that's no joke. Duke will have days it doesn't shoot well or make great decisions, but Duke will always play with passion. Count on that.
Last-second hero: Redick's an unreal shooter and Williams is a force down low, but Sean Dockery is Duke's cold-blooded winner. It's more than his half-court heave that beat Virginia Tech earlier this season, though that's a good place to start. Dockery is a McDonald's All-American who never became the star he might have thought, but he has developed into an accurate 3-point shooter (43 percent). If the game's on the line and Redick and Williams are surrounded, Dockery will be open. And he'll make it.
Reason to root for: You can disagree with this -- perhaps by pulling up old newspaper accounts from high school events (or non-events) -- but from first-hand experience I'm telling you: Duke has good kids who play ferociously hard. If it wasn't so trendy to root for Duke, therefore making it even trendier to root against Duke, you'd pull for them.
Reason to root against: Duke's everywhere. Duke is IBM. Duke is the Yankees. Who roots for the Yankees? People from New York, or people with no soul. Same with Duke. If you're a Duke alumnus or a lifelong local, you have the right. But if you're in Wichita or San Francisco or wherever, find another team. Duke doesn't need your help. And Coach K is a hypocrite on about 14 levels.
NCAA Tournament history: Duke is fourth all-time with three national championships, second all-time with 14 Final Fours, and eighth all-time with 29 NCAA Tournament appearances.