Today the Blue Devils begin their road to Atlanta with a 12:15 tip off time against the Albany Great Danes. In a tournament that has already seen No. 1 Gonzaga nearly falter, No. 3 Marquette barely scrape by, and No. 14 Harvard win its first ever NCAA tournament game, thoughts of last year's game against Lehigh will be fresh in many minds. Here are the keys for Duke to avoid another such second round loss.
Time off for Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry
Even though the Blue Devils have everyone playing in games again, that doesn't mean the team is necessarily healthy. Kelly has looked gassed at times since his return to the floor after a 13 game layoff, while Curry still barely practices with the team at all thanks to his various leg injuries. After losing to Maryland early in the ACC tournament, Duke hasn't played a game for an entire week. Now the question is whether the time off rusts the Blue Devils, or whether it re-energizes a weary team.
Getting the good Rasheed Sulaimon
The freshman guard has been up and down all season. In his last four games before the ACC tournament Sulaimon scored a combined 17 points and lost his starting job to Tyler Thornton. However, Sulaimon was reborn against Maryland while the vast majority of his teammates struggled, scoring 16 points and grabbing six rebounds. Sulaimon is an x-factor for Duke this tournament season. As a player who can completely change a game with his offense while at the same time lock down the opponent's top wing player, Sulaimon is truly a rare breed. The Blue Devils need to see Maryland Sulaimon today and for the next few weeks, as opposed to the player who shot 7-for-23 the final two weeks of the regular season.
Defend the 3-pointer
Albany doesn't score many points per game, but the Great Danes are potent from beyond the arc. Senior guards Mike Black and Jacob Iati are both noted marksmen from long range, with Iati ranking third in the America East Conference in 3-point percentage and second in 3-pointers made per game. Duke needs to run the shooters off the perimeter and prevent the duo of diminutive guards from shooting Albany into the game. Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton will likely spend most of the game chasing the shooters, but weaker defenders Seth Curry and Quinn Cook will need to contain the long ball as well.
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