Beats' picks: Will Duke women's basketball take rematch against Richmond to open NCAA tournament?

Reigan Richardson drives to the basket during Duke's regular-season finale at North Carolina.
Reigan Richardson drives to the basket during Duke's regular-season finale at North Carolina.

No. 7-seed Duke takes the floor against Richmond for the second time this season Friday to open its NCAA tournament journey. The Chronicle’s beat writers are here with their predictions about whether the Blue Devils can make the second round:

Elle Chavis: Duke 70-59

On the first outing of their season months ago, the Blue Devils squashed the Spiders in a 83-53 victory on their home turf, but a lot of things have changed since that November day. Both teams have made it to the NCAA tournament and have steadily improved since the first time they met up. Richmond comes into this contest with all the momentum, following a decisive win in the Atlantic 10 title game. But don’t count out head coach Kara Lawson’s young group. Even though the Spiders have a conference championship under their belt, Duke has gone head-to-head with some of the top-ranked teams in the country, giving it far more experience in high-pressure situations than its opponent. The Blue Devils’ defense has only improved since their season opener, and while the Spiders have hit more of an offensive stride as of late, it simply will not be enough for them to slip through any cracks that appear in Lawson’s defensive scheme, giving Duke all it needs to walk away with the win. 

Franck Djidjeu: Duke 72-56

Duke's first round opponent is a familiar foe that kickstarted their 2023-24 campaign. This Richmond team absolutely bulldozed their way through the Atlantic 10 conference, winning their regular season title and the conference tournament. The Spiders finished the year winning 12 of their last 13 games, with their lone loss coming on the road in overtime. Therefore, it is safe to say that they are peaking at the right time and are far better than the team the Blue Devils ran through earlier in the year. However, it is also safe to say that Duke has taken several steps forward as well since November. This young team has figured out its roles and built significant experience. I believe that will allow them to remain poised, even with the elevated stakes, taking down the Spiders for the second time.

Caleb Dudley: Duke 60-55

Even though the Blue Devils demolished the Spiders in the season opener, I don’t see this one being the same type of blowout. Richmond has come a long way since that first game of the 2023-24 campaign, as it has only lost four games since then and mowed through the Atlantic-10 during league play. While I think Duke still possesses the superior roster, I see Lawson’s young squad struggling with some jitters in the first NCAA tournament minutes for a good portion of the group, resulting in the Blue Devils having to claw out a win in a closely fought game. 

Ryan Hamner: Duke 69-58

After stomping on the Spiders early in the year, Lawson’s team has grown a lot and is primed for a postseason run. While Richmond is a strong mid-major team, Duke simply has more talent and experience in a tough ACC that should serve it well. My only holdout in not backing the Blue Devils more is the same as Caleb’s: This young team has very little experience in the postseason, both for the player’s and even Lawson herself. Regardless, I see Duke keeping its form and playing well in a tune-up before a round-two matchup against what will likely be a tough Ohio State squad. 

Martin Heintzelman: Duke 80-65

Don't get me wrong, the Spiders are a good team. One of the best in the Atlantic 10, probably. But the Atlantic 10 is not the ACC. Duke is the better team than Richmond, by a sizable margin. The Blue Devils are noticeably strong at both ends of the floor, and they proved it early in the year. With a 30-point win against the Spiders to open the regular season, Duke made it clear that they know how to handle this group. Look for the Blue Devils to do it again in Ohio Friday. 

Riya Khatod: Duke 78 - 61

Despite the Spiders entering this matchup on a five-game winning streak, it will be the Blue Devils who put an end to their run. Richmond has notably enhanced their offensive prowess over the past 10 games, boasting an average of 73.9 points per game, a 0.5-point improvement from its season average. However, Duke's intense, 40th-ranked defense, which has been a formidable obstacle against the likes of ranked teams including N.C. State, Virginia Tech and Syracuse, is bound to overwhelm the Spiders. Additionally, Richmond's lack of experience against top-tier teams suggests that success will be limited, having only secured victory against one top-50 team, Drake, during the regular season. Duke will dance its way to the round of 32 after a dominant performance Friday.

Colton Schwabe: Duke 68-58

Duke started its season on a high note, exterminating its visitors with a 30-point victory. Months have passed between these teams' meetings, but both parties will look back upon the matchup that kickstarted their season. Richmond performed at the very top of its Atlantic 10 conference and only lost two conference meetings, but the team simply does not have the same experience as the Blue Devils when it comes to competing with high-caliber programs. If Duke continues its recent form, the Spiders will be unable to keep up with Lawson's squad and the talent it possesses.

Garrett Spooner: Duke 74-62

Duke has showcased an ability to play well in high-profile games throughout the season, and I don’t see a way that its bright-lights, bright-performance mentality wavers Friday. Richmond is entering this matchup hot, winners of its last five including three tournament games en route to a conference championship. To put down the Spiders for the second time this season, Duke must receive superstar performances from its high-profile players, including Reigan Richardson and Ashlon Jackson. In their ACC tournament matchup against N.C. State, Richardson and Jackson struggled, shooting a combined 3-of-18 from the field. If point guard Taina Mair is steady and Richardson and Jackson can knock down shots, expect Duke to run away with this one. 


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