On Monday night, No. 3-seed Duke hosts one last game inside Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, this one against No. 6-seed Colorado for the right to head to Seattle for the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16. With the stakes high as ever in Durham, The Chronicle's beat writers make their predictions.
Em Adler: Colorado 60-57
These are two very similar teams: Both have smothering defenses led by star combo guards, poor halfcourt offenses with suspect jump shooting and their only efficient scorers are spot-up players at the four. And both scored a lot of points Saturday in ways that are probably irreproducible against a team of the other’s caliber. If Shayeann Day-Wilson scores 15, I think Duke wins. But it’s more likely that Kennedy Brown gets into foul trouble and Colorado center Aaronette Vonleh is able to score enough inside to make the difference.
Leah Boyd: Duke 61-52
A quick look at statistics shows that Duke and Colorado both have high defensive ceilings but have had similar scoring efficiency issues in their most recent games. The key to the mismatch is that Colorado likes to play off of cuts and fast-break layups, which I think Duke’s size advantage and seasoned full-court press can keep in check. I also see Colorado as a team that can get flustered easily — it fell apart after Stanford went on a 7-0 run — so if Duke opens efficiently as it did against Iona, it may be able to take a lead and run with it.
Franck Djidjeu: Duke 60-47
Duke flew through Iona, but now it must replicate such execution against a much tougher opponent. Colorado has been battle-tested in one of the best conferences all year while still maintaining a double-digit average margin of victory. However, the Buffaloes have struggled against the elite, losing four of their last five ranked matchups, all but one of which were by 12 points or more. Duke has proven to be one of those elite teams. The same problems that overwhelmed the Buffaloes against Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals are sure to be replicated — and even exacerbated — by a Blue Devil team with a revitalized offense.
Dom Fenoglio: Duke 56-48
Monday presents a tricky matchup for Duke, as it plays a Colorado team that boasts wins against No. 2-seed Utah and No. 4-seed UCLA. Both teams are coming off strong showings in the first round and have experience playing against tough competition. Expect the game to remain close throughout, and while I think the Blue Devils will make the score slightly more lopsided at the end with free throws, the Buffaloes certainly have the ability to make things interesting.
Martin Heintzelman: Duke 55-45
This is going to be an excellent game between two top-25 teams from two of the strongest conferences in the country this year. Both teams have seen spotty scoring at times this year, with each squad having multiple games under 50 points. Ultimately, look for the Blue Devil defense to prevail. Duke is the better team here, and it will prove as much Monday night.
Ranjan Jindal: Duke 67-59
Duke and Colorado are coming off of uncharacteristically high offensive performances, scoring 89 and 82 points, respectively. While this does not appear to be repeatable Monday as both teams are top-50 in scoring defense, they each push the ball in transition and can score off of fast-break opportunities. However, the Buffaloes committed 17 turnovers against Middle Tennessee, so they are susceptible to giving the ball away. I think the depth of the Blue Devil full-court press will wear out Colorado in the second half and lead Duke to victory.
Sophie Levenson: Duke 69-60
A game like Saturday’s was exactly what the Blue Devils needed to kickstart their run in the Big Dance. This matchup against Colorado will likely not be as smooth as Duke’s defeat of Iona, given that the Buffaloes are also coming into the game having knocked out Middle Tennessee by a 22-point margin. Still, at this point in the postseason, the Blue Devils are a well-oiled machine — with the advantage of their home court — and it will take a heck of a wrench to stop them.
Mackenzie Sheehy: Duke 57-52
Monday night’s matchup will be the ultimate test for the Blue Devils as they look to prove themselves as a genuine contender for the NCAA crown. Colorado may have the lesser seed as the No. 6 in the Seattle 4 region, but it would be a mistake to underestimate them. The Buffaloes have earned big wins throughout the season, most notably over No. 2-seed Utah and No.4-seed UCLA. Colorado also averages 69.2 points per game compared to Duke’s 63.9. That being said, the Blue Devils’ full-court press and stellar defense will likely stifle the Buffaloes enough to get the edge. Nevertheless, expect a battle in Cameron Indoor.
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Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.
Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.
Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.