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Beats' picks: Will Duke men's basketball defeat Texas Tech in the Sweet 16?

After suffering an ankle injury late in the game against Michigan State, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Griffin was good to play Thursday during his Wednesday press conference.
After suffering an ankle injury late in the game against Michigan State, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Griffin was good to play Thursday during his Wednesday press conference.

Duke will face off against Texas Tech at 9:30 p.m. at Chase Center in San Francisco, and given the way these two teams match up and the one-point spread in favor of the Red Raiders, all signs point to a nail-biter. Let's see who our beats pick to move on to the Elite Eight.

Piazza: Texas Tech 68-64

This is going to be an exhilarating one all the way down to the last minute, but I am going with the Red Raiders here. The Texas Tech defense is suffocating and only gives up an average of 60.2 points per game. Just watch the last few minutes of its win against Notre Dame. Senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva came up with two huge blocks and the rest of the defense rallied to thwart the Fighting Irish. The Red Raiders might not have the flashy scorers that a lot of other typical late March Madness teams do, but that hasn’t stopped them from winning against ranked teams all year and it won’t stop them from moving on to the Elite Eight. 

Rego: Duke 67-64

When the line opened at Texas Tech -1, I have to say that I was a bit surprised. But then again, we are talking about the most efficient defensive unit in the country, and the Red Raiders’ “no middle” scheme might be the solution to keeping the Blue Devils from creating off the dribble. AJ Griffin, who Mike Krzyzewski deemed healthy Wednesday, will have to knock down a couple jumpers from the perimeter, and getting Trevor Keels downhill off ball screens will be key. Texas Tech forward Kevin Obanor is averaging 12.5 points and 12 boards in the tournament so far, so he figures to be a load to handle inside. Clearly, the last five minutes of Sunday’s second-round victory were phenomenal on both ends for the Blue Devils. But again, it was the second round. Each matchup gets progressively more challenging from here on out, and Duke is in for a complete fight. I think the Blue Devils advance, but it will no doubt come down to the last few possessions.

Jackson: Texas Tech 72-62

I have the Blue Devils road ending here. So do all of my brackets…which might just mean Duke is taking this one. But the truth is Texas Tech has the best defense in the country and while the Red Raiders struggled against a Notre Dame team that Duke handled, I still think it will be too much for the Blue Devils. I see this game playing out similarly to the Michigan State game. It will be a close the whole way with a few less changes here and there, but in the final stretch, Texas Tech will begin to pull away and I don’t think Duke will have the willpower to pull itself back in. To be honest, I’m afraid the Blue Devils used all their energy and “togetherness” to get out of their last hole and they won’t be able to do it again. Coach K notoriously struggles on the West Coast and this could be the last time he has to face that challenge.

Kolin: Duke 72-68

I’m really tempted to pick Texas Tech here. It took some big plays in the final five minutes for Duke to get past Michigan State in the Round of 32, and the Red Raiders—unlike this year’s Spartans—have true championship potential. But I picked the Blue Devils to go the distance in my bracket before the tournament, and I’m not going to change my selection now. While it took some heart for Duke to even get to San Francisco, the other way of looking at it is they showed that they have the heart necessary to advance in this tournament. It’ll go down to the wire, but I have the Blue Devils staying alive for at least another game.

Morgenstern: Texas Tech 77-74

 Coach K’s final Sweet 16 matchup will be a battle to the end, but AJ Griffin’s ankle injury tips the scales in Texas Tech’s favor. Krzyzewski announced that Griffin will play Thursday night, but we don’t know exactly how much or how well. With their best shooter playing hurt, Duke’s potent drive-and-kick players like Jeremy Roach and Trevor Keels will not see the same success and Mark Williams will be double-teamed. It will be up to Paolo Banchero to make plays off the dribble. Texas Tech is a formidable foe, but don’t count out the Blue Devils. They held off Michigan State just fine with Griffin on the bench in the second half, and Krzyzewski does not seem ready to hang up the clipboard just yet.

Richie: Duke 66-62

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Texas Tech will be the toughest foe the Blue Devils have faced all season. Superstar teams like Gonzaga and Kentucky are one thing, a defensive juggernaut like the Red Raiders is an entirely different beast. Duke has struggled against teams playing good defense, which is a bit of a tautology but the point stands. If the Blue Devils can play for a full 40 minutes like they did for the final five minutes of their second-round defeat of Michigan State, meaning everyone is bought in to their role and playing it near flawlessly, they can take down Texas Tech. But that’s a big if. However, I think this Duke team has enough fight left in it to pull it off. It’ll be difficult, gritty and very, very close, but I think the Blue Devils come away with this one, even if only by the skin of their teeth. 

Hurewitz: Texas Tech 69-65

Texas Tech and the nation’s top-ranked defense on KenPom—will it be something Duke’s high-powered offense can overcome at the biggest stage of its season? The seeding in the tournament would say yes, but a lot of other signs are pointing toward that answer being a no and Thursday being the end of the road for Coach K and the Blue Devils. That is not to say it won’t be close, however, as I think no matter the final score it’ll be a close one, built on timely runs and avoiding foul trouble and too many turnovers. Duke can certainly pull it out late, as we saw Sunday against Michigan State, but Texas Tech’s physicality and relative experience could help deliver the fatal blow in the final minutes of the game—like it did Sunday against Notre Dame. This is easily the biggest toss-up game of the tournament so far, and the calendar reading “March” means just about anything can happen.

Levitan: Duke 72-64

Thursday’s matchup, if you haven’t gotten the memo, is supposed to be all about Duke’s prolific offense and Texas Tech’s staunch defense. In my opinion, that feels like a gross oversimplification of a game that features two of college basketball’s best and most complete teams. Duke’s defense, although inconsistent in recent weeks, has the size, speed and star power—enter Mark Williams—to hang with any offensive attack, and the Red Raiders are less than a week removed from putting up 97 points in an NCAA tournament game. The true story in this one should be Duke’s defense against Texas Tech’s offense, and when you factor in my general lack of faith in the Red Raiders to score at a high clip, the Blue Devils seem to be a fair deal better-equipped to put together a two-way performance worthy of the Elite Eight.

Max Rego profile
Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.

Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

Sasha Richie profile
Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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