Tonight, the second-seeded Blue Devils will look to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament as they face seventh-seeded Creighton in the Round of 32 at 9:40 EST.
Here are your three keys to the game for Duke to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011:
1. Slowing down Doug
Creighton’s Doug McDermott—the heart and soul of the Blue Jays—might be the most well-rounded offensive player in the nation. The 6-foot-8 junior nets 23.2 points per game and can put the rock in the basketball in a variety of ways. Senior forward Ryan Kelly—who is a similar player and acquitance of McDermott—will have the assignment of slowing down the two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. McDermott is the only Blue Jay that averages double figures in scoring. McDermott is going to score, but if Kelly and the Blue Devils can force him to take more difficult shots than normal and prevent him from getting in a groove, then they have an excellent shot at advancing.
2. Owning the glass
Arguably Duke’s biggest weakness this year has been its vulnerability on the boards. Bigger, more physical frontcourts have exposed it during the season. Against a faster, more finesse Blue Jay squad Sunday night, the Blue Devils should dominate in the interior. In the Albany game on Fri., Duke only edged the smaller Great Danes 27-23 on the glass.
Creighton’s Gregory Echenique—a bruising 6-foot-9, 260-pound center—leads the team in rebounding with 9.7 boards per outing. Getting a body on him is critical to Duke’s success. McDermott, who primarily plays on the perimeter, is the team’s next best on the glass at 7.6 rebounds per game.
3. Cook keeps cooking
Quinn Cook was superb in his first tournament game as the full-time starting point guard, dropping 11 dimes against Albany. Cook’s play was a big reason why Mason Plumlee had a hay day against Albany. Plumlee finished with with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting. The Blue Devils desperately need their sophomore floor general to play mistake-free basketball and continue to distribute the ball like he did Fri. afternoon. Cook’s play may be even more important as the Blue Devils try to slow the game down a bit against a Blue Jay team that loves to get out in push the pace offensively.