The second-seeded Blue Devils' road to Phoenix for the Final Four begins Friday in Greenville, S.C., against No. 15 seed Troy. With Duke coming off a stunning ACC championship run last week, here are three keys for the Blue Devils to avoid what would be an equally shocking upset loss.
Defend the 3-point line
Most upsets stem at least in part from hot 3-point shooting, and the Trojans have the weapons from the perimeter to make things interesting Friday night. Junior guard Wesley Person shoots 40.0 percent from long range and exploded for 39 points with 10 made triples in a game against UT Arlington earlier this year.
Duke is sixth in the nation in 3-point defense, though, holding opponents to just 29.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc this year. Guards Frank Jackson and Matt Jones have both been excellent perimeter defenders capable of running opposing shooters off the 3-point line, and they will need to contribute more of the same against Person to keep Troy's offense in check.
The Blue Devils probably will not need all of their perimeter weapons to be clicking to get past the Trojans, but it would help to build on their momentum from last week's ACC tournament, when the team came together consistently for the first time all season. Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen, Frank Jackson and Luke Kennard each made at least four shots from the field just twice in the regular season, but they replicated the feat in the last two games of the tournament against North Carolina and Notre Dame. Read more »
With the Blue Devils set to open NCAA tournament play Friday night against Troy in Greenville, S.C., The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Mitchell Gladstone break down what they need to do to advance to the second round of the tournament for the third straight year.
0:26—What Duke needs to watch out for from a Troy team that can score the ball on offense
1:50—Why Jayson Tatum and Amile Jefferson could take advantage of their size advantages to have big games Friday Read more »
The second-seeded Blue Devils are heavily favored in their NCAA tournament opener against No. 15 seed Troy, but Duke has learned not to take any opponents lightly in March after falling victim to two shocking first-round upsets in the last five years. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:
Duke: Guard Matt Jones
Jones made the biggest shot of Duke's season with a triple from the wing in the final minute of the ACC championship last Saturday against Notre Dame, but the senior co-captain has made much more of an impact on the defensive end throughout his career. Usually matched up against opponents' top scoring threats, Jones' next assignment will likely be Troy's Jordon Varnado, who averages 16.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
As a 6-foot-6 post player who does most of his scoring around the basket and crashes the glass effectively, Varnado could be just the type of player Jones matches up well with, like Michigan State's Miles Bridges or Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame earlier this year. If Jones can shut Varnado down, the Blue Devils will have size advantages at almost every other position on the court and should be able to contain the Trojans. A 3-pointer or two from Jones wouldn't hurt either, of course, as the senior has been cold all year but could be needed to space the floor offensively later in the tournament. Read more »
Duke is often thought of as the villain—particularly when it comes to basketball, with hated Blue Devil figures such as Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick and, most recently, Grayson Allen.
But for the second time in less than five months, Duke picked up another one of the "good guys."
After 2017 five-star basketball recruit Wendell Carter posted a James Bond-themed video to announce his commitment to the Blue Devils in November, Duke football recruit Tahj Rice announced that he would be joining head coach David Cutcliffe's program with his unique superhero-themed video announcement Tuesday.
It was war. Adrenaline was surely released, there were elbows flying and of course, it was all in the name of competition.
As a prelude to its home game against North Carolina in 2004—which Donald Trump attended—and as response to the University of Warwick in England setting the record a week prior, Duke organized what was then the largest pillow fight ever accordingto the Guinness Book of World Records.
On the Main West Quadrangle at night, 1,076 students gathered and for a minute swatted pillows at one another. The organizers had to set up multiple cameras and witnesses to prove to the Guinness Book of World Records what the total was, and only bed pillows were counted, no "couch cushions."Read more »
The fifth-seeded Blue Devils rallied from an eight-point deficit to defeat the third-seeded Fighting Irish 75-69 at the Barclays Center in New York Saturday and win their first ACC championship since 2011. A clutch performance from Jayson Tatum and late 3-pointer by Matt Jones lifted Duke to another come-from-behind victory and its fourth win in four days.
Revisiting the three keys to the game:
Body up Bonzie: As has been the case for much of the last few years, the Blue Devils struggled to shut down Colson. Playing in a unique tweener position as almost a small-ball center, Colson was a difficult matchup for Duke big men Harry Giles and Amile Jefferson, racking up 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting. The only thing that could slow the junior was a brief ankle injury and mishap with a contact lens late in the second half.
Shooters Shoot: The Blue Devils did not shoot particularly well from the 3-point line, finishing just 5-of-15 from deep. But Duke forced Notre Dame to take tough perimeter jumpers as well, and the Fighting Irish shot just 6-of-25 from distance. It was ultimately the midrange and drive-and-kick game that propelled the Blue Devils to victory, rather than the hot 3-point shooting that had carried the team through the earlier rounds of the tournament.
Making History: Although Duke showed some signs of fatigue early in the second half as Notre Dame nudged its way back into the game, the Blue Devils fought hard deep into the second half. Perhaps no better play epitomized Duke's ability to dig deep and make big plays when needed than a coast-to-coast finish by Tatum following a block on Steve Vasturia.
Three key stats:
The Blue Devils shoot 60.8 percent from the field: Unlike its usual perimeter-oriented approach, Duke was able to take advantage of size mismatches on the interior to get easy buckets. The Blue Devils finished with a 44-32 advantage in points in the paint, and Duke refused to settle for perimeter jumpers and continued to attack the basket down the stretch of the game.
The Fighting Irish hit only six triples: Despite coming into the game as one of the best shooting teams in the nation, Notre Dame had trouble penetrating against the Blue Devil defense with only Colson capable of scoring consistently. As a result, the Fighting Irish resorted to jacking up contested jumpers, which played into Duke's hands. Guards V.J. Beachem, Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia combined to shoot just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc and missed their fair share of open looks.
Duke turns it over 12 times: Despite shooting much better than Notre Dame throughout the first half, the Blue Devils' carelessness with the ball kept the Fighting Irish in the game. Notre Dame scored 20 points off a dozen Duke turnovers, and a series of giveaways after halftime propelled the Fighting Irish to their first lead of the game. The Blue Devils will have to improve in this category if they hope to win a national title.
Duke made history Saturday, beating Notre Dame 75-69 to become the first team to win four games in four days to take home the ACC championship. The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Hank Tucker reflected on the Blue Devils' run and broke down how they staged a second-half comeback again in the championship game.
0:20—Instant reaction to the most improbable of Duke's 20 ACC championships
1:34—How Jayson Tatum took over the game in the final minutes to carry the Blue Devils to the win
2:09—Why Bonzie Colson dominated Duke again but could not make as much of an impact in the closing minutes Read more »
NEW YORK—After getting to the ACC championship with two dramatic comebacks from double-digit deficits in the second half, Duke found itself in an unfamiliar position for much of the first half Saturday—in the lead.
The fifth-seeded Blue Devils lead No. 3 seed Notre Dame 38-34 at the Barclays Center, with Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum combining for 22 points to lead a balanced attack. Duke is controlling the paint for the first time in the tournament with 18 paint points, and Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles have both been effective in the post.
But Fighting Irish star Bonzie Colson has kept his team in it with 15 points, cutting Duke's lead to two with six seconds left in the period before an Allen buzzer-beating layup made it a four-point game again.
Although the Blue Devils have started out cold from the perimeter, shooting just 3-of-10 from beyond the arc, they were killing Notre Dame on the glass in the opening minutes, just like they did in the regular season. Tatum made the play of the half with a one-handed putback dunk off a missed triple by Kennard, two of Duke's seven second-chance points in the half. Read more »
When the Blue Devils hit the road and knocked off Notre Dame earlier this season, no one anticipated that it would be part of their eventual seven-game winning streak. Likewise, not many could have expected Duke to win three games in three days to reach the ACC tournament title game—yet, the Blue Devils will take to the floor Saturday night looking to collect a 20th conference tournament trophy.
Body up Bonzie
For a Duke team that has struggled to rebound the ball much of the season due to a lack of depth in the frontcourt, a small Fighting Irish side may be the perfect antidote—especially one night after North Carolina dominated the Blue Devils to the tune of 50 points in the paint. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame and the ACC's leading rebounder, averages 10.2 boards per night and had nine of the Fighting Irish's 26 the last time these teams met. With a wide frame at 225 pounds, but just standing 6-foot-5, Duke will have the length to go up and grab the ball against Colson—Jayson Tatum led the Blue Devils with 14 rebounds in the late January matchup in addition to nine combined boards between big men Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles.
Against a much taller Florida State team Friday, Notre Dame really had no say in the paint. The Seminoles outrebounded the Fighting Irish 41-23 and converted that into a 42-24 advantage in paint points. If the Blue Devils can contain Colson down low and force him into tougher outside shots, it will be one less area that Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff have to worry about against a dangerous Notre Dame offense.
In terms of offense from the perimeter, there may not be two more feared teams in the ACC than Duke and the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame got off to a lightning-quick start in its semifinal, jumping out to a 42-26 halftime advantage thanks to 8-of-15 shooting beyond the arc. Guards Matt Farrell, Matt Ryan, Rex Pflueger and Steve Vasturia all drilled multiple triples and the Fighting Irish finished the game 48.1 percent from distance. Similarly, the Blue Devils got a huge boost from Grayson Allen—who drained four first-half 3-pointers on his way to 5-of-6 shooting from downtown—and a perfect 2-of-2 night on 3-pointers from Luke Kennard. Read more »