No Coach K, no problem. Mike Krzyzewski retired as Duke men’s basketball head coach after 42 years last spring, but the Blue Devils don’t look any less of a contender in their first year under Jon Scheyer. After capturing the ACC Tournament title last weekend and securing an NCAA Tournament berth as a 5-seed, Duke now finds itself marching on to the second round of NCAA March Madness following a decisive 74-51 victory against Oral Roberts in the opening round. It sets up for a clash with 4-seed Tennessee on Saturday, with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Much work must be done should Duke replicate its March Madness run a year ago, which saw the Blue Devils go all the way to the Final Four before they were eliminated by arch-rival UNC in the national semifinals. But Duke is a confident group entering the Round of 32, that despite the Blue Devils boasting a far younger group compared to some of the past Duke squads that went deep.
With the Vols on deck, Scheyer and several Duke players spoke with media members on the team’s off-day Friday.
Duke basketball with opportunity to play in familiar territory
The biggest reason that Duke is playing in the early window on Saturday is the location of its region being on the east coast while other sites are in different time zones.
Tennessee didn’t make a shot in the final five minutes of its win against Louisiana, but Duke shot nearly 50% against Oral Roberts. Winners of 10 straight, the Blue Devils have averaged 78.5 points over their past four games and have limited their opponents below their season scoring average 31 times, with a 27-4 record in those games.
Santiago Vescovi vs. Tyrese Proctor
Tennessee senior Santiago Vescovi and Duke freshman Tyrese Proctor are products of the NBA Global Academy in Australia. Vescovi, the Vols’ top scorer at 12.9 points per game, could be matched up with Proctor, arguably Duke’s top defender on the perimeter.
Proctor made things tough for Oral Roberts star Max Abmas, limiting the nation’s seventh-leading scorer (22.2 ppg) to 12 points. Vescovi scored three points on three shots against Louisiana, but was averaging 16.7 points in the four games ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
Duke at full strength
After dealing with a string of injuries throughout the season, Duke finally has continuity with its full roster available. The Blue Devils have started the same lineup in 15 consecutive games and are 19-1 in games with its full complement of players. Duke’s 10-game winning streak is its longest since reeling off 11 consecutive wins to start the 2017-18 season.
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