Heading Down to Jacksonville: Initial Thoughts on Duke's Weekend

Loyal readers of The Chronicle's Sports Blog: get used to seeing my name this weekend.  You see, I'm sitting in lovely RDU airport, using some surprisingly free Wi-Fi, and preparing to head down to Jacksonville to cover Duke's first weekend in the NCAA Tournament.  As I'm the only Chronicle reporter doing so (thanks, economic crisis and declining journalism industry!) it will be my most cherished responsibility to keep you all updated on the goings on down in Florida, both in terms of Duke's contests this weekend and any other games that I'm privy to watch at the Veteran's Memorial Arena.  You know what that means: lots and lots of lovely blog posts!

As we look forward to Duke's contest versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff (or, as a friend has dubbed the team abbreviated Arkansas-PB, Arkansas Peanut Butter), a couple things immediately stand out. First, Duke should in no way be over-confident heading into tonight's game, especially after the chaos that was day one of the NCAA Tournament. In a day that featured a No. 3 seed in Georgetown being handily beaten by No. 14 seed Ohio (which was the No. 9—nine!—seed in their own conference tournament), as well as No. 4 seed Vanderbilt being upset at the buzzer by No. 13 seed Murray State, there were also a rash of near upsets—No. 2 seed Villanova needed overtime to take down No. 15 seed Robbert Morris, and No. 3 seed New Mexico, No. 3 seed Baylor and even No. 1 seed Kansas had some trouble dispatching their first-round opponents. But all indications are the Blue Devils are focused on the game tonight, and if that is indeed the case the Golden Lions shouldn't pose much of a threat to Duke.

Second, how Duke plays in this game, and especially how Coach Krzyzewski utilizes the bench, could set a tone for the rest of the NCAA Tournament. One of the most encouraging results of the ACC Tournament was the reemergence of freshmen Andre Dawkins and Mason Plumlee as legitimate offensive threats off the bench—which, not so surprisingly, was directly correlated with their increasing minutes in the Tournament.  If the Blue Devils are able to run away from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the last five minutes or so of garbage time still could hold critical importance for Duke fans, as they could serve as crucial confidence boosters for both of these freshmen.

Stay tune to The Chronicle's Sports Blog throughout the weekend for more posts from Jacksonville (i.e. whenever there is a break in the Tournament or I just get bored in my hotel room), as well as my Live Blog tonight and my game-story on dukechronicle.com tomorrow morning.

Embrace the Madness, folks!


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