Duke Blue Devils: Prediction, Preview For 2013 NCAA Tournament

Mason Plumlee Rasheed Suilaimon Duke Blue Devils
Duke is an 9/1 favorite to win the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Reuters

The 2012-2013 Duke regular season was very similar to those of years past.

The Blue Devils were among the best teams in the country for the entire season, finishing with a 27-5 record and No.6 in the AP Top 25 Poll. Their five losses tied them for the fewest by any team in a major conference.

Duke was consistent throughout the year, never losing two games in a row and never falling to a team that finished with less than 22 wins. They were successful against strong competition, going 10-2 against clubs that made the NCAA Tournament.

On Friday, the Blue Devils will start their quest to make the Final Four as the No.2 seed. An early exit to Maryland in the ACC Tournament kept the selection committee from giving the team one of the four No.1 seeds in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Every year, Duke is one of the best teams in the country. However, they have arguably underachieved during March Madness in recent seasons. Other than their national championship in 2010, the Blue Devils haven’t advanced passed the Sweet Sixteen since 2004. This year, head coach Mike Krzyzweski will look to lead his team out of the Midwest region, which is considered the most competitive.

Below is a complete preview for Duke in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Key Players

If Duke wants to have a successful March Madness run, Mason Plumlee needs to perform like the best player on the team. The big man has been one of the nation’s top stars, leading the Blue Devils with averages of 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and a 59.2 field goal percentage.

When Plumlee struggles, the rest of the team usually does too. In Duke’s five losses, the senior is averaging 12.6 points, compared to 18.1 in the team’s wins. His field goal percentage is also down 12 points when the Blue Devils fail to win.

Along with Plumlee, Seth Curry is Duke’s top scoring option. The two lead a dynamic offense that is sixth in the all of Division I college basketball with 78.3 points a game.

Plumlee and Ryan Kelly give opponents two big men that they have to worry about, while Curry is usually the biggest three-point threat on the court. He takes more than six attempts from behind the arc each contest, but hits 43 percent of them. The three-point shot is a major part of the Blue Devils scoring attack, and the team becomes much easier to defend if Curry isn’t making his attempts.

Duke gets very little scoring from its bench, with no player outside of the starting lineup averaging more than 3.3 points per game. Even more so than other top teams, Duke must get big performances from their stars.

Potential Matchups

No.2 seed Duke is scheduled to face No.15 Albany on Friday afternoon. The Great Danes are one of the worst teams in the field of 64. They failed to defeat a single tournament team and had the fifth-best record in a conference that sent no other teams to the dance.

After their first round game, things become a lot more difficult for the ACC powerhouse. The Midwest is loaded with quality talent, and coaches with tournament success.

Whoever Duke plays in their second matchup will have a solid chance to pull out a victory. Their likely opponent, No.7 Creighton Bluejays, are ranked in both top 25 polls. They could also take on the Cincinnati Bearcats, who are one of the best defensive teams in the tournament, and have marquee wins against Marquette and Pittsburgh.

The top of Duke’s bracket is filled with some of the best coaches and programs in the sport. Rick Pitino leads Louisville, who is the top seed in this year’s tournament. Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team is the No.3 seed, and has reached the Final Four in six of the past 14 seasons.

Each region is filled with tough teams, but the selection committee didn’t do the Blue Devils any favors by putting them in the Midwest.

Prediction

Getting through their first game should be an easy task. A win by Albany would mark one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, since the point spread at most Las Vegas casinos has Duke as 18-point favorites.

Either Creighton or Cincinnati would present a tough matchup for Duke, but they should make it to, at least, the Sweet Sixteen. The Bearcats don’t have a player that is as good as either Plumlee or Curry, and the Blue Devils can handle the Bluejays if they contain Doug McDermott.

Duke has enough talent to reach the Final Four in Atlanta. Unfortunately for them, they’re in the same portion of the bracket as the hottest team in the country. There’s a good chance Pitino will get the better of Krzyzweski in the regional final, returning the favor from 21 years ago.

Predicted Finish: Elite Eight

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