Preview: Duke v. Tennessee

In a loaded Maui Invitational Field, Duke appears to be the early favorite, but wining a fifth title in five tries won't be easy.

In a star-studded Maui Invitational, Duke again appears to be the favorite.

The No. 6 Blue Devils are the highest-ranked team in the powerful field and have never lost at the Lahaina Civic Center as they try to add to their record total of titles beginning with Monday's quarterfinal matchup against Tennessee.

This year's event features what is considered one of its strongest fields, with four ranked teams along with perennial powerhouses UCLA and Georgetown. There is little doubt that Duke (4-0) is the team everyone is trying to beat.

The Blue Devils have won Maui titles in all four previous appearances in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2007.

"This is the fifth time I have been able to bring a team to Maui," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It obviously has been a highlight for our program and we've always been well received."

Duke is facing a SEC foe for the first time since losing to LSU in the 2006 NCAA tournament. Krzyzewski has a Division-I record 904 victories, with none of his 831 with the Blue Devils coming against Tennessee (2-0).

The only meeting between these schools with Krzyzewski at Duke came in his first season, a 90-69 loss in 1980.

Cuonzo Martin, meanwhile, is in his first season coaching the Volunteers, and owns 63 career victories.

"It's certainly a great honor for our program to be here," Martin said. "Guys are working extremely hard. Such a tremendous field, and I think more impressive to me is to have an opportunity to go against Duke and one of the best coaches, if not the best to ever coach the game."

Duke has already been tested with close wins over Belmont and Michigan State. The Blue Devils have new starters in freshman Austin Rivers and junior Andre Dawkins.

"To play against Tennessee tomorrow and whoever we play after that will be a really good experience," Krzyzewski said. "We have a younger team and we're still learning about ourselves and this tournament hopefully will help us in our progress to have a really good team."

The Blue Devils have showcased solid balance, with five players averaging in double figures. They have had 18 different occurrences of players scoring at least 10.

Perhaps Duke's most improved player is junior forward Ryan Kelly, posting career highs of 12.8 points per game on 58.3 percent shooting. Kelly replaced Miles Plumlee for his first start of the season Friday in an 82-69 victory over Davidson.

"We've been taking it one game at a time and (now) we're worried about our game on Monday," Kelly said. "That's what you have to think about. It's a brutal tournament, going three days in a row, but we'll be ready to play and we're excited for it."

Tennessee sophomore guard Trae Golden is averaging a team-high 23.0 points. Golden is one of four Volunteers to have made at least five 3-pointers on a team that is among the nation's best at 49.1 percent from beyond the arc.

The winner will play No. 10 Memphis or No. 17 Michigan in Tuesday's semifinals.


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