When the No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils square off against the No. 15 seed Albany Great Danes in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, this matchup looks like it will be a one-sided battle on paper, but that likely won't be the case.
Which team do YOU have advancing?
While the No. 1 seed Louisville Cardinals will be a tough test if the Blue Devils get that far, the rest of the region is very beatable and an Elite Eight appearance for Duke should be expected.
Don’t sleep on Albany, though. The Great Danes are coming off a huge America East Conference championship, and look to use their stellar guard play to force the Blue Devils to make fundamental mistakes so that the team can take advantage with points of its own.
This is not the sexiest second-round matchup—Duke is favored by 19 points over Albany—but these are the kind of games where a great team like the Blue Devils can underestimate the Great Danes and find themselves in a real battle.
They don’t call it March Madness for nothing.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.
When: Friday, March 22, at 12:15 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness On Demand
Betting Line (via Vegas Insider): Duke -19
Duke Injuries (via USA Today): None.
Albany Injuries (via USA Today): Tanner Gibson, G, Out for season.
Players to Watch
Albany: Mike Black, G
Senior guard Mike Black is by far the most talented player on this year’s Albany team, and as a fourth-year star, the on- and off-court leader has put up career numbers in his final season in college.
With 14.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season, Black has proved himself one of the hardest-working players in the nation. He will have to prove that moniker against a Duke team that boasts a few great guards of its own.
What makes Black even more dangerous is his defensive prowess. The Blue Devils have a bona fide college star in Seth Curry, and it will be Black’s job to shut Duke’s top guard down offensively.
Duke: Mason Plumlee, PF
Albany’s biggest weakness is a lack of low-post presence, and with a power forward as gifted offensively as Duke’s Mason Plumlee, the Blue Devils should be expecting a monster game from the senior star.
Plumlee averaged a double-double this season (17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game). Against a lackluster Great Danes inside tandem of center John Puk and forward Sam Rowley, Duke will be expecting even more impressive numbers from its big man.
There is no mistaking Plumlee for a dominant physical presence down low—he can be bullied in the paint at times—but against an Albany team without the tools to stop him, the senior is set up to have the best tournament game of his career.
Key Matchup: The Battle of the Guards
Duke had a serious case to be a No. 1 seed in the tournament, but the fact that the team landed on the No. 2 line proves it is still one of the best teams in the nation. That success stems from the solid play of the backcourt.
The Blue Devils start three guards (Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook), and have used fast-paced play to outrun teams all season. With an average of 78.3 points per game (sixth in the country), Albany will have a lot on its plate.
As great as Duke is at the guard positions, the Great Danes are one of the few teams in the nation that matches up well and can even try to stop the Blue Devils’ offensive assault.
Led by their own threesome of guards Mike Black, Jacob Iati and Peter Hooley, Albany depends on the trio for not only their ability to defend at an elite level, but their ability to knock shots down in clutch situations.
The Great Danes averaged 64.4 points per game (250th in the nation), but an average of 34.8 points came from the backcourt trio.
While Albany will need more offense than that to beat Duke, the guard matchup on paper is close enough to raise doubts about the Blue Devils’ certain victory in the second round.
Prediction: Duke Wins
While the No. 2 seed always has the clear advantage over the lowly No. 15 seed, Duke will be sadly mistaken if they take the Great Danes lightly in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski has too much tournament experience to allow his team to sleep on an underestimated squad like Albany, and Duke will be ready for the battle.
The Great Danes will leave it all on the court in Philadelphia, but as gifted as Albany is at the guard positions, the lack of an inside presence will be too much for the team to overcome.
Elite guard play from both teams should keep the score fairly close throughout the game, but the lack of a player that can stop power forward Mason Plumlee will result in a serious mismatch in the paint that the Blue Devils will exploit.
That inability to stop Plumlee will be Albany’s downfall, but the Great Danes will put on a great show in the second round. Duke is just too good this season to lose this early in the tourney.
Predicted Score: Duke 83, Albany 73
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.