One of Sunday's most intriguing round of 32 clashes pits a perennial favorite in the Duke Blue Devils against a surging Creighton squad coming off an impressive win over a relentlessly pesky Cincinnati team.
In Duke's round of 64 showdown with Albany, the Blue Devils were never truly in danger of losing to the Great Danes, cruising to a 73-61 victory, lead by Seth Curry's 26 points and Mason Plumlee's 23 up front.
For Creighton, the road to the round of 32 wasn't quite as smooth, as the Bluejays and Bearcats were engaged in a fierce battle until the end—Cincinnati's terrible day outside the arc, coupled with Creighton's solid free-throw shooting, proved to be the difference.
Leading the way was Creighton's Doug McDermott, a two-time MVC Player of the Year, who put up 27 points, pulled down 11 boards and went a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe.
Looking ahead, Creighton will have a much more difficult time winning battles on the boards and from the perimeter, but Duke has been known to head for the exits early in recent years.
That being said, Coach K's storied Blue Devils have to be considered the overwhelming favorite heading into the game, because he's got enough talent and athleticism on his roster to beat anybody in the nation on any given day.
Here's all you need to know about the game and where you can tune in to watch or listen.
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, March 24, 9:40 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness On Demand
Betting Line: Duke -4.5 (via SportsBook)
Creighton Injuries (via USA Today): None
Duke Injuries (via USA Today): None
What's At Stake
Obviously, first and foremost, a spot in the Sweet Sixteen is on the line, but for these two teams in particular, the significance of getting there is vastly different.
The Bluejays have been to the Sweet Sixteen just three times in school history, and they haven't been once since 1974. A win over Duke would go down as the biggest win ever for the program.
At the other end of the court, the Blue Devils don't just hope to be here every year, they expect it. Coach K is aiming for a title every year, or at worst, a berth in the Elite Eight.
A loss against Creighton would be one of the worst in Coach K's tenure, especially because the program's endured a couple of early exits in recent history.
Players To Watch
Creighton: F Doug McDermott
Simply put, there weren't many stars who showed up to play in the round of 64 like Creighton's undisputed most valuable player, who posted a double-double with 27 points against the Bearcats.
But McDermott's been doing it all year, as the junior has lead the Bluejays in scoring and rebounding this season—he'll have to be at his best if his squad is to have any hope of beating Duke.
Duke: F Ryan Kelly
Getting Ryan Kelly back from injury was absolutely critical to the Blue Devils' title aspirations, but he'll have to be better than he was against Albany going forward.
Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee picked up the slack offensively, going for 49 points combined—Kelly managed just eight points, and though he racked up three steals, he's got to be more of a presence offensively.
Kelly's a senior, and if he's hoping to draw more NBA attention prior to the draft, a string of solid performances resulting in a deep Duke run certainly wouldn't hurt.
Keys To Victory
Creighton: Improved Shooting From Field, Force Kelly to Shoot
Against Cincinnati, Creighton didn't have to shoot the lights out because Cincinnati wasn't capable of doing so either, but that won't be the case with Duke. Curry and Plumlee are both elite scorers, and if given chances, they'll put the game out of reach early.
Instead, the Bluejays need to force the ball into the hands of Kelly, who suffered through a miserable shooting performance against Albany, and hope he does the same again.
Duke: Get Ahead, and Early
In Duke's round of 64 contest, the Blue Devils put the game out of reach by halftime, and they never once looked back.
In the second half, the Blue Devils didn't have to frantically rally for a win like some of the other high seeds, and if they can put points up early on, they'll be well-rested heading into the Sweet Sixteen.
I always believe that if an elite team is shooting the ball well and has no key injuries, talent will win out in an obvious mismatch such as this.
Duke might not run away with this one, but I don't exactly believe it will be close for very long after halftime either.
Curry and Plumlee get into a rhythm and stake the Blue Devils to a reasonably comfortable lead, and Duke advances.
Duke 71, Creighton 59
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