Quieting The Critics?

Throughout most of the pre-tournament period there were any number of questions surrounding Duke's seeding and the program's recent history of struggles in March. After two games, however, the Blue Devils are still dancing. Convincingly.

Duke players have been peppered with questions during the opening week of the NCAA Tournament about the validity of their No. 1 seed in the South Region.

The Blue Devils did most of the answering with their play, pummeling two opponents to reach the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

"We've quieted a lot of people," center Brian Zoubek said. "But the main thing is we just want to keep playing."

Duke has scored less than 70 points in three of its last five games, perhaps part of the reason that the Blue Devils have been scrutinized so much for any potential shortcomings.

The Blue Devils aren't a flashy team and they were almost methodically in dispatching California in the second round. It was a steady rise, so much so that they didn't have one of those patented spurts and California never called a second-half timeout.

Duke held the Bears to a season-low 53 points (9 less than the previous low), setting up a matchup with fourth-seeded Purdue, which has been hit hard by a season-ending injury to Robbie Hummel, in Houston. While second-seeded Villanova is gone from the bracket, third-seed Baylor remains a possible Elite Eight opponent if Duke advances.

Duke hasn't played beyond the Sweet 16 round since advancing to the 2004 Final Four. In the last 11 seasons, that was one of two years when the Blue Devils advanced past the Sweet 16, with the other time coming when they won the 2001 national championship.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Jon Scheyer reached the 2,000-point mark for his career on a second-half free throw against California. He finished with only seven points, marking the second time this season he didn't score in double figures. The other time came when he scored nine points in a home victory against Wake Forest. "I want to play better the next game," Scheyer said after the NCAA Tournament's second round. "I'm just happy we have a next game."

--Duke has reached the 30-win mark, leaving Jacksonville, Fla., with a 31-5 record after two NCAA Tournament victories. It's the 11th season in which the Blue Devils have posted at least 30 victories. They've done it in seven of the last 12 seasons.

COACH: Mike Krzyzewski, 30 years at Duke, with 73 NCAA Tournament victories (all-time leader in that category).

KEYS TO VICTORY: It's all about the defense for Duke, and the Blue Devils believe that can overcome any offensive deficiencies. The next game is a Sweet 16 encounter with Purdue, which has endured some struggles on offense since losing Robbie Hummel to a season-ending injury. This could play into Duke's hands, especially if the Blue Devils can find rhythm offensively, because Purdue isn't likely to be overly explosive. Duke also showed it could overcome some ragged shooting from standout senior G Jon Scheyer, who made 1 of 11 shots from the field against California, yet the Blue Devils never really seemed in danger.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It left me the last couple of games. Ö I'll find it in Durham and I'll take it with me to Houston." -- G Jon Scheyer on his shooting touch in the NCAA Tournament after he went 1-for-11 from the field against California, contributing to his season-low seven points.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SCOUTING REPORT: Look for G Jon Scheyer to be emphasized in Duke's offense for the Sweet 16 game against Purdue. The Blue Devils tend to try to fix things that have gone awry, and after Scheyer made only 5 of 18 shots in the first two rounds of the tournament, they'll want to get that straightened out in order to help them advance. But with G Nolan Smith heating up some on offense, that's a nice fallback plan for the Blue Devils. They could be in trouble if they're not able to contain Purdue's offense because the Boilermakers are bound to show up wanting to keep the pace tame and the point totals low. In the meantime, the Blue Devils appear more and more comfortable utilizing their post players and they've continually come through, especially C Brian Zoubek. Duke's bench hasn't been producing a lot of points (only eight against California), but that's not alarming because that's been the case for most of the season.

GAME REVIEW:

  • Duke 65, Georgia Tech 61 (ACC Tournament final)
  • Duke 73, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 44 (NCAA Tournament first round)
  • Duke 68, California 53 (NCAA Tournament second round)
GAME PREVIEW:
  • vs. Purdue, Friday, March 26, South Regional semifinals at Houston

ROSTER REPORT:

--F Kyle Singler is shooting just below 50 percent from the field (46-for-94) since the Blue Devils' loss Jan. 30 at Georgetown. He's averaging 20 points per game since that outing.

--C Brian Zoubek's 14 points and 13 rebounds against California gave him his 10th double-figure rebounding game of the season. He had six of Duke's 11 offensive rebounds. The 7-foot-1 senior also had only his second dunk of the season.

--G Andre Dawkins didn't figure into the game plan much against California, logging only three minutes and not attempting a shot. Considering Duke was 3-for-17 on 3-pointers, look for Dawkins to be more vital in the next game if the Blue Devils continue to struggle with perimeter shooting.


Blue Devil Digest Top Stories