Duke (29-6) vs Texas (23-11)
Greensboro, N.C. - Greensboro Coliseum
TV: CBS / Tip: 8:15 PM EST
Program Vitals Conference: Big 12 Nickname: Longhorns Colors: Orange and White Head Coach: Rick Barnes (11th season) Career Record at Texas: 170-10
Projected Starters: 5 Damion James (6-7, 222, Jr.) – 15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg 34 Dexter Pittman (6-10, 300, Jr.) – 10.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg 4 Dogus Balbay (6-0, 175, So.) – 3.3 ppg, 3.2 apg 3 A.J. Abrams (5-11, 160, Sr.) – 16.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg 24 Justin Mason (6-2, 195, Jr.) – 6.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg Key Reserves: 1 Gary Johnson (6-6, 230, So.) – 10.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg 21 Matt Hill (6-10, 245, So.) – 1.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg 32 Connor Atchley (6-10, 230, Sr.) – 4.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg 50 Varez Ward (6-2, 190, Fr.) - 3.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Storylines For Texas:
How They Got Here:
Duke opened the NCAA Tournament by cruising past the Binghamton Bearcats in the first round. In that game six players scored in double figures as Duke ran out to a double figure lead midway through the first half and continued to expand that lead to more than 20 early in second half, before finishing up with a 26 point win.
On the other hand the Longhorns faced Tubby Smith and Minnesota. The Longhorns, like Duke, seemed to take control of the game early on behind a career post-season high 26 points from A.J. Abrams.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two programs and first in the NCAA Tournament. The last time the two programs met was a #1 vs. #2 matchup in East Rutherford, N.J. where JJ Redick scored 41 points as #1 Duke steamrolled the Longhorns by a 97-66 margin.
Bother teams' regular rotations appear to be healthy as they enter the game.
Differing levels of tournament success recently:
Much has been made of Duke's post-season struggles in recent years. The Blue Devils will be looking to make the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004 with a win on Saturday evening. On the other hand, Texas will be looking to make it out of the Second Round for the sixth time in the last eight years with a win against the Blue Devils. Texas went to the Final Four in 2003, the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008 and the Sweet 16 in 2002 and 2004.
Changing Of The Guard Helped Texas:
Throughout the first 2/3s of the season the Longhorn offense wasn't exactly the picture of efficiency. So Coach Barnes made a lineup switch on February 10th by inserting Dogus Balbay into the starting lineup at the point guard spot. Since that time the Longhorns have won eight of their last 12 games. And, during the post-season portion of the schedule, the Longhorns have shot 48% from the floor and 45% from the perimeter. Overall the team is averaging 3 more points per game while shooting 3.2% better from the field, five percent better from the perimeter, and 4.1 percent better from the free throw line.
Defense Is The Key For Texas:
With the offense getting better and better for the 'Horns, it's easy to overlook the defensive prowess of this Texas team. But it is that defense that has carried the team for much of this year. Through the first 34 games, Texas has held opponents to just 65.4 points per game and 40.6 percent shooting from the field. In half of those games opponents have failed to shoot 40% against Texas, while three of those opponents couldn't manage 30 percent shooting. That defense has gotten even better in the post season (Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments) where opponents are scoring just 63 points per game while being held to 37.5 percent shooting.
With an improving offense and one of the better defenses in the tournament, it stands to reason that Texas is going to be a match up problem for Duke. That is magnified when you look at the rebounding margins for the Longhorns. In the First Round, Minnesota couldn't match Texas on the glass where the Longhorns won the rebounding battle by a 41-30 mark. Such statistics aren't unusual for Rick Barnes' club, as Texas has out-rebounded its opponents in 28 of their 34 games this season. Defensively the Horns were just as good - holing the Gophers to just 40.7% shooting from the field.
Watch Out For...:
Senior guard A.J. Abrams has made the most of his senior season. The fourth year player will take the floor for the 145th time on Saturday night and 35th consecutive time this year. Through the first 34 games Abrams is averaging a career best 16.6 points per game while shooting 39.8% from the perimeter. The senior was a game changer against Minnesota - hitting for 26 points while hitting eight of his 15 perimeter attempts. He added thre steals, while playing all 40 minutes against the Gophers. When it seemed as though Minnesota was going to make a run and seize control, the senior stepped up and hit five straight three pointers and scored 15 straight points as the Longhorns turned a five point lead with 17:39 remaining into a 59-44 advantage with just 11:00 remaining. Abrams is tied for fourth all-time with Duke's J.J. Redick for the most three pointers made in NCAA Tournament history with 39. The all-time leader is Florida's Lee Humphrey who made 47 over his four year career.
In the opening round the Blue Devils were a bit choppy at times on offense as the nerves of the opening round of the Big Dance seemed to be in play. Now, however, Duke will get a huge step up in competition as the Longhorns come calling. Texas is going to look to pound the ball inside on the smaller Blue Devils which will mean Duke needs to get some production from big man Brian Zoubek. If Duke can play a mostly even game on the glass, then the Blue Devils should probably have enough on offense to move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. If, however, Texas can keep the game scoring in the upper 60s and pound the ball inside to their bigs, Duke could be in real trouble as it's hard to fathom the Duke post game withstanding that kind of pounding.