Beats' picks: Can No. 4-seed Duke men's basketball slow James Madison's high-flying offense to book spot in last 16?

Tyrese Proctor switches the ball behind his back during Duke's win against Vermont.
Tyrese Proctor switches the ball behind his back during Duke's win against Vermont.

On Sunday evening, the fourth-seeded Blue Devils play their second game in three days with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. The Chronicle’s beat writers are here with their takes about whether Duke can triumph over James Madison in Brooklyn, N.Y., to keep dancing:

Andrew Long: Duke 80-76

The Blue Devils’ first-round matchup was unconvincing for more than 30 minutes, with a profligate shooting performance and nothing-burger from the floor by sophomore center Kyle Filipowski punctuating a tough opening against Vermont. But Duke pulled things together down the stretch and eventually won by 15, in large part due to an elite defense and ability to stop the Catamounts at the perimeter. Duke’s guards found their scoring touch and their defense held Vermont without a point for the last five minutes, allowing the Blue Devils to run away with things and throw in the reserves for some feel-good garbage time.

If Duke can translate that performance to Sunday and you subscribe to the regression-to-the-mean theory like I do, the Blue Devils should have just enough to escape James Madison and its high-octane style of play. Filipowski is due for a higher-volume game, Jeremy Roach should find more rhythm from the floor and the reliable play of Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell and Jared McCain should be able to counteract the Dukes’ ability to sling it from deep. The Blue Devils have to start fast — or even keep pace, to be honest — to not let James Madison grab an early buffer, but if they can do that, a trip to Dallas looks probable.

Rachael Kaplan: James Madison 73-71

Yes, Duke had a good few minutes to widen the final margin, but its first-round matchup was close. Roach did end up with a modest point total from the line and showed flashes of his former March self, but his 3-for-10 shooting mark shows that he’s not quite back to full form quite yet. Filipowski had his most one-sided game since the Blue Devils’ win against Charlotte in December — all rebounds, no offense of his own. He wasn’t missing shots, but he wasn’t taking them. Duke struggled again from the jump, and will be facing a James Madison team that jumped out in front of the Badgers early and never looked back. The Dukes are hot and the Blue Devils haven’t fixed all their flaws. This one screams upset. 

Mackenzie Sheehy: James Madison 72-64

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this James Madison team looks dangerous. The Dukes just dismantled a Wisconsin team that recently took down No. 1-seed Purdue en route to a Big Ten tournament championship appearance. Not only that, but their points were spread across the floor. James Madison’s leading scorer — Terrence Edwards Jr. — put on a show with 14 points, five rebounds, a block and two steals. However, three other Dukes tallied double digits in the scoring column, which could pose a multifaceted threat for the Blue Devils Sunday. If Duke proves incapable of playing cohesive team defense and can’t shut down James Madison’s multiple scorers, it could be in serious trouble. More importantly, I think the Dukes are going to disrupt the Blue Devils from the opening tip, and when Duke gets off-kilter it has a hard time correcting course. Ultimately, James Madison has the right mixture of talent and grit to pull off an upset in Brooklyn.

Ranjan Jindal: Duke 74-69

I think this game will have a much different feel than Vermont, but Duke will be similarly challenged by a mid-major bunch. Against the Catamounts, the Blue Devils did a good job adjusting to a slow pace by locking up defensively and taking quality shots. This game will be faster, and the two keys to me will be the turnover battle and guarding the wings. James Madison is great at generating turnovers with its length and athleticism, and if the Blue Devil backcourt has poor late-game execution, the Dukes will capitalize. Great wings — Harrison Ingram and Blake Hinson, for example — have been the kryptonite for a pretty stout Duke defense, so stopping Edwards and T.J. Bickerstaff will be paramount. Despite these two concerns that could make the game close, I think this team is focused and pulls off a tight one. 

Dom Fenoglio: Duke 76-68

I was unconvinced with Duke’s first-round win against Vermont. While it certainly showed up on the defensive end, I thought the offense still looked stagnant at times and settled for subpar shots. With that being said, Friday’s victory was a step in the right direction, and I think the Blue Devils will build on it heading into Sunday’s matchup with James Madison. Since the Dukes have more size and athleticism than the Catamounts, I do not see Mitchell notching as many easy dunks as he had in the first round, so someone else will need to get buckets. That player needs to be Filipowski. I was impressed with his decision making against Vermont — his singular field-goal attempt is a testament to his progress as a passer — but teams often need a star to succeed in March. Filipowski is a Second Team All-American who will have at least four inches on any James Madison player. He shouldn’t force shots, but he needs to be more aggressive in finding his spots in order for the Blue Devils to advance to the Sweet 16.

Sophie Levenson: Duke 70-69

James Madison is going to be a heck of a team to beat, but I do think Duke can take it. Wisconsin gave up the ball 19 times, and yes, James Madison forces turnovers really well, but I’m not sure that’ll hold up against the Blue Devils. The Duke backcourt simply controls the ball too well, much more so than the teams in James Madison’s Sun Belt conference. James Madison will win, though, if the Blue Devils don’t step up on the offensive side of the ball. Friday night’s game would have been much more of a blowout if the Blue Devils had actually landed more of their shots, but their defense was good enough to see them through. I like Duke in a game that goes down to the wire. 

Jonathan Levitan: Duke 71-62

James Madison was impressive in more than a few ways against Wisconsin, but what separated the Dukes was their ability to start fast and keep their legs under them the rest of the way. That profile is somewhat concerning for the Blue Devils, who have started slowly in four straight outings dating back to the regular season.

In the first round, Vermont’s slow tempo allowed Duke to (mostly) play its game, even when the score got a little too close for comfort. The Dukes’ tendency to speed things up and try to race past opponents out of the gates poses a different sort of challenge, but the Blue Devils have another mismatch for Filipowski and a defense that is peaking at the right time. Things go according to plan Sunday evening as Jon Scheyer gets to the regional semifinal for the first time as head coach.

Micah Hurewitz: Duke 78-71

I certainly underestimated how Vermont would slow down Duke and turn its height disadvantage into a strength in how it stopped Filipowski from getting easy looks at the basket. James Madison brings a much different look. The Dukes play fast, force a ton of turnovers and are excellent at stopping the 3-point shot. I would not be surprised if James Madison threw doubles at Filipowski like the Catamounts did Friday night, but Duke is back in the win column after shooting the ball well and playing excellent defense. 

The Dukes are coming off a historic victory against Wisconsin, but prior to that win they had only played three games against Quad 1/2 opponents, winning just their season opener against Michigan State and dropping a pair against conference rival Appalachian State. We should not look past its Friday win, but James Madison just does not have a large enough body of work against high-caliber teams to show they can go on a run to the Sweet Sixteen. Duke should be moving on to Dallas.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports 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.

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Dom Fenoglio | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Ranjan Jindal profile
Ranjan Jindal | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Sophie Levenson profile
Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Andrew Long profile
Andrew Long | Sports Editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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