Game Day: Duke (29-5) vs. Illinois (26-6)

Duke will look to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since the 2001 season when the Blue Devils face Illinois Friday night in Atlanta. The Fighting Illini are coming off an impressive victory over fourth seeded Cincinnati in the second round of the Atlanta Regional. <I></I> runs down the match up.

Game Facts:

ACC regular season champion Duke (29-5, 13-3 ACC), the No. 1 seed in the Atlanta Region, will face Big Ten regular season champion and fourth-seeded Illinois (26-6, 13-3 Big 10) in the Atlanta Regional semifinal game on Friday, March 26, at the Georgia Dome. The game will be broadcast nationally by CBS. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:10 PM EST.

The Series:

Duke leads the all time series with Illinois 3-2. The Blue Devils have won the past two meetings between the two schools (both were played as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge) by a total of four points. Under Coach K,Duke is 3-2 vs. Illinois.


*- Duke has never lost (3-0) at the Georgia Dome.

*- Duke is making its seventh consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16. The next-closest current Sweet 16 streak belongs to Kansas with four straight. The Blue Devils have been to 21 Sweet 16s in school history.

*- With its 90-62 victory over Seton Hall Saturday night, sixth-ranked Duke improved to 29-5 this season and 79-24 in NCAA Tournament play.

*- The Blue Devils own a 31-5 all time record in the NCAA Tournament when ranked as a top seed.

*- Coach K has now improved his NCAA Tournament record to 62-16 at Duke. That's a .795 winning percentage. Krzyzewski's 62 wins rank second all time behind North Carolina's Dean Smith's 65. The next closest coach is UNC's Roy Williams with 35.

*- The Blue Devils' 79 NCAA Tournament victories rank fourth all-time behind only Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA. Duke's .767 NCAA Tournament winning percentage is the highest in college basketball history.

*- Chris Duhon ranks third all time in NCAA history with 37 steals in the NCAA Tournament behind former Dukie Grant Hill's 39, and Kentucky's Wayne Turner (38).

*- Of the 799 games coached at Duke by Mike Krzyzewski, 660 of them have come as a ranked team (83 percent). Duke's record as a ranked team is 542-118. Of those 660 contests, 163 have come as the No. 1 team in the country (144-19 record).

*- Thirteen of Duke's last 29 opponents have shot .400 or less from the floor, including .318 by 11th-ranked Texas on Dec. 20, .400 by fifth-ranked Michigan State on Dec. 3, .353 by fourth-ranked Wake Forest on Jan. 17.

*- Duke has been very balanced offensively this season as five players — J.J. Redick (16.0), Luol Deng (14.9), Shelden Williams (12.9), Daniel Ewing (12.7) and Chris Duhon (10.1) — are averaging at least 10.0 points per game.

*- Duke has posted an impressive 343-55 record vs. non-conference opponents under Mike Krzyzewski.

*- Duke has six players averaging at least 8.4 points per game in the 2004 NCAA Tournament led by freshman Luol Deng (17.5 PPG).

Meet the Fighting Illini:

Probable Starting Lineup: 
   Dee Brown (6-0, 175, G, So.) – 13.1 ppg, 4.6 apg
   Luther Head (6-3, 175, G, Jr.) – 10.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg
   Deron Williams (6-3, 210, G, So.) – 13.9 ppg, 6.1 apg
   Roger Powell (6-6, 220, F, Jr.) – 11.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
   James Augustine (6-10, 225, C, So.) – 9.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg
Key Reserves: 
   Nick Smith (7-2, 240, C, Jr.) – 7.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg
   Brian Randle (6-8, 200, F, Fr.) – 3.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
   Richard McBride (6-3, 210, F, Fr.) – 3.2 ppg, 1.1 rpg

Key Wins:

Memphis, Illinois-Chicago, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Murray State, Cincinnati

Key Losses:

UNC, Providence, Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Essentially the Blue Devils will be looking in the mirror when they face Illinois in the Sweet 16. Bruce Weber has his team peaking at the right time, which was evident in a total domination of fourth seeded Cincinnati in the second round.

For the Illini the offense starts in the backcourt where sophomore Deron Williams has emerged as the team's best overall player. Williams is able to beat you from the perimeter, off the dribble, and he's extremely dangerous when he's allowed a chance to look for open teammates.

Joining Williams in the backcourt is the more recognizable name (at least nationally) in 6-foot-0 combo guard, Dee Brown. Brown could be one of the quicker guards the Blue Devils will have faced all season long. Like Williams Brown can get past his initial defender more often than not, and can hurt you from the perimeter if given the chance.

The third of three guards for Weber is Luther Head who was considered to be one of, if not the, best Illinois' player heading into the season before off the court problems forced his game to take a step in the wrong direction. He's still managed to become the team's second best three point shooter (around 35%, just ahead of Brown), and isn't one of those players you can afford to forget about in the half court defense.

Manning the interior are 6-foot-6 Roger Powell, and 6-foot-10 James Augustine. Neither of these players are throwbacks to the bruising, physical teams of the mid to late 1990s. However both are capable of corralling loose balls and both are tenacious on the offensive glass.

Off the bench Weber can bring in 7-foot-2 Nick Smith, who can be likened to Georgia Tech's Luke Schenscher. Smith is very smart, very tall, and fundamentally sound. However he can't play long periods of time due to medical concerns (asthma). He's also not considered a very strong rebounder for someone his size, and he's not going to overpower anyone.

Other major contributors off the bench are freshmen Brian Randle, and Richard McBride. Randle has enough savvy and natural talent to be good in spurts, and is a summer of weight gain away from big things in Champaign. Meanwhile McBride can kill you if he's hot, or he can hurt his team if he's off.

Keys to the game for Duke will include ball pressure and strong halfcourt defense. With two very capable ball handlers on the floor Illinois' can break any kind of pressure thrown at them. The points off turnovers due to pressure aren't likely to be there. They also move the ball around and find the open shooters when needed. If the threes are falling then they become very tough. However the Illini have been streaky and Duke is exceptionally strong at challenging the perimeter looks.

Inside the Blue Devils will need big contributions from Shelden Williams, Shavlik Randolph, and Nick Horvath. If Williams stays away from foul trouble and Randolph continues his late season coming out party, it could spell success for Duke. Also freshman Luol Deng should have the advantage over Powell, though at 6-foot-6, the Illini forward is athletic enough to stay with Luol. However Deng's height and length could be tough to defend and he can play closer to 6-foot-10, than his listed 6-foot-8.

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