For the second consecutive season, Duke will play in the NCAA Tournament as a second seed. This year, the ACC Tournament champion Blue Devils get the added bonus of playing close to home in nearby Greensboro Coliseum--about an hour drive from Durham.
Duke will open play Thursday against 15th-seeded Binghamton out of the America East Conference. The Bearcats, a relative newcomer to Division I basketball, were recently profiled in The New York Times about their "win-at-all-costs" mentality toward success on the court. Regardless of the approach, it worked this season, as Binghamton won the America East regular season with a 13-3 conference record and cruised in the AEC tournament to the title. The Bearcats will bring an 11-game winning streak into the Tournament, and they boast a road win at Rutgers. (At RUTGERS!)
If the Blue Devils get by Binghamton--and when was the last time 15-seeds gave Duke any trouble?--they'll earn a Saturday date with either No. 7 Texas or No. 10 Minnesota. The Longhorns spent some time in the top 10 this season before underachieving in the Big XII, capped by a loss to Baylor in the conference tournament semifinals. Texas, however, has wins over UCLA, Villanova, Wisconsin and Oklahoma (sans Blake Griffin).
Minnesota, meanwhile, went 9-9 in the Big Ten and earned one of the final at-large selections. Tubby Smith's team got off to a fast start, going 16-1 including a victory over Louisville. The Golden Gophers, though, have alternated between losses and wins for the last month and haven't won consecutive games since late January, when Duke was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Duke's recent history as a 2-seed, however, isn't exactly glowing. Everyone remembers the Blue Devils sneaking by No. 15 Belmont by one in the first round before bowing out to West Virginia in the second round. In 1997 as a No. 2, Duke survived 15th-seeded Murray State by three before Austin Croshere and Providence upset the Blue Devils in the second round. Of course, Duke won its first NCAA title in 1991 as a 2-seed and advanced to the final game in 1994 out of the 2-slot.
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