After Selection Sunday, Duke men's basketball's fate is in its own hands. The Blue Devils are the No. 5 seed in the East Region, and the Blue Zone breaks down the bracket and Duke's potential path:
Duke at No. 5-seed, other ACC teams living on the bubble
A dominant past few weeks have Duke's stock at an all-time high, a contender to make the Final Four later this year in Houston. The Blue Devils’ offense has exploded over their past few contests, catching up to their stifling defense and helping them win an ACC championship in head coach Jon Scheyer’s first season at the helm. However, the performance in Greensboro, N.C., did not sway the committee enough to put Duke in the top 16, as the Blue Devils slot in as the No. 5 seed in the East Region. Although many thought Duke’s recent dominance might grant them a four seed, Blue Devil fans still have plenty to be confident going into March. Kyle Filipowski is among the most talented players in the nation, and Jeremy Roach once again has assumed his form from last March. Combine that with Dereck Lively II’s defense and Tyrese Proctor’s ball handling ability, and Duke is a serious threat to make it out of the East, showing the prowess it displayed when it knocked off Virginia in the conference title game.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, they are the highest seed from the ACC, coming in as a No. 4 seed. Their run to the conference finals evidently did enough in the committee’s eyes to stave off Duke on the seed lines, and Virginia will look to advance out of the South region. Miami comes in on the same seed line as Duke, as the Hurricanes are the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region. Coming into Selection Sunday, the rest of the ACC’s top tier was holding their breath, and two others ended up sneaking into the field. N.C. State is the No. 11 seed in the South Region where it will take on Creighton, and Pittsburgh heads to Dayton, Ohio, to play in the First Four.
The usual suspects scattered
When top seeds in March Madness come to mind, a handful of programs always seem to be in the conversation. Kansas was able to live up to its perennial billing, as the defending national champions are the No. 1 seed in the West Region. The Jayhawks have been one of the best teams in the nation all season, knocking off Duke early in the year and once again winning the Big 12 regular-season championship and reaching the title game in their conference tournament. Gonzaga also won its conference title, knocking off Saint Mary’s, who lands as a No. 5 seed in this tournament. To reward their yearly dominance in the WCC, the Bulldogs were given a No. 3 seed in the West, and they will be a strong title contender that is led by one of the premier big men in the country in Drew Timme.
While the Jayhawks and Bulldogs met expectations, other recurring contenders hit some bumps in the road on their journey to March. Kentucky, another team who has high expectations every year, struggled early on, ended up as a No. 6 seed this year after being a No. 2 seed last season. Michigan State, a familiar foe for Duke, is a No. 7 seed, an uncharacteristic down year for head coach Tom Izzo’s squad.
Gauntlet in the East
While Duke is the No. 5 seed in the East, it certainly did not get the easiest draw imaginable. The Blue Devils’ first-round opponent will be Oral Roberts, arguably the most dangerous No. 12 seed in the tournament. The Golden Eagles are 30-4 entering the first round, and are coming off a Summit League championship. Most importantly for the Duke, Oral Roberts is led by Max Abmas, one of the best scorers in the nation, and someone the Blue Devil gameplan will likely heavily focus on. Abmas averages 22.2 points per game, good for sixth in the nation. If Duke can advance, it will likely face Tennessee, who poses a completely different challenge to the Blue Devils. The Volunteers, although they just lost their point guard in Zakai Zeigler for the season with a torn ACL, possess one of the best defenses in the country, commanding an entirely different mindset for head coach Jon Scheyer. Duke’s likely Sweet 16 matchup is the top seed in the region, the Purdue Boilermakers. This will be yet another chance to exact revenge, as Purdue clobbered the Blue Devils earlier in the season during the Phil Knight Legacy tournament. If Duke can find a way to stop Zach Edey this time around, an Elite Eight berth could be on the horizon.
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