Despite a disappointing ACC tournament showing, don't expect coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils to roll over when March Madness tips off.
Just by experience and proven success alone, we can anticipate Duke making a strong run in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
But given the rather even-keeled playing field, the Blue Devils possess a distinct advantage with Coach K and his established tournament resume. In an article by Eric Prisbell of USA Today, he states that there are numerous teams capable of taking the 2013 NCAA tournament:
Four national title-winning coaches – Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky's John Calipari and Florida's Billy Donovan – told USA TODAY Sports that they believe at least 30 teams in this year's field, nearly half the teams competing, have a legitimate chance to reach the Final Four, a higher number than ever before.
"There are more good teams," Krzyzewski says. "You are not on a super highway between winning and losing. You are on side streets now, the way coaches look at it. The margin between winning and losing is much more narrow this year."
With so many schools possessing a legitimate chance to make a run, the minute difference between them all comes down to coaching.
This means game-planning, motivation, in-game adjustments, situational preparedness and personnel awareness.
All that is the advantage Duke has with Coach K.
As for the circumstances in which the Blue Devils entered this year's tournament, it must be motive more than anything else.
Finishing the regular season at 27-5, Duke was the ACC regular-season runner-up and logged wins over Louisville, Ohio State, North Carolina (twice) and Miami (split). That's quite a solid resume considering that the Cardinals received a No. 1 overall seed, and the Buckeyes and Hurricanes No. 2 seeds.
Unfortunately, the conference tournament resulted in an upset from the Maryland Terrapins. Combine this loss with the early exit in the 2012 NCAA tournament—courtesy of the No. 15-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks—and the Blue Devils have something to prove this time around.
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports also wrote of the Blue Devils on Sunday:
Don't read too much into the Blue Devils' ACC tourney loss to desperate Maryland. They're still 18-1 with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, and this team surely learned some valuable lessons from the comeuppance against Lehigh last year.
Offensively, Duke is impressing once again by averaging 78.3 points and 14.7 assists per game. The Blue Devils rank No. 17 in field-goal percentage (47.6) and have multiple players capable of scoring in buckets.
On defense Duke isn't bad either. They allowed an average of 65.4 points per contest and ranked No. 69 in defensive efficiency. Based on the insane number of schools in the FBS for basketball, the Top 70 is solid, but obviously the Blue Devils still need to improve defensively for a deep run.
If anything, Duke is a safer bet to reach the Final Four than some upcoming underdog.
The pool of realistic possibilities is too vast regarding who can last long into late March and early April. But Duke's odds have that edge with its coach and incentives to avenge 2012's and 2013's frustrations.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game