The Duke Blue Devils enter their NCAA Tournament third-round matchup with the Creighton Bluejays attempting to recapture the high level of play from their 18-0 stretch with Ryan Kelly in the lineup prior to losing to Maryland on March 15.
The Blue Devils looked the part down the stretch against Albany on Friday in their 73-61 win. As a potential No. 1 seed one week ago, though, a better overall game would be expected in the round of 64.
With that in mind, Creighton will meet the Blue Devils Sunday night, armed with the best three-point shooting efficiency numbers left in the tournament. Here’s what Duke can do to thwart an onslaught beyond the arc and another first weekend exit.
Close Out on Creighton Shooters
When it comes to three-point shooting percentage, no team is better than the Bluejays.
Coach Greg McDermott’s team averages a ridiculous 42.2 percent from beyond the arc, buoyed by its star Doug McDermott, who stretches the defense with his deep range.
Creighton also boasts the nation’s best true-shooting percentage and a top-10 points-per-possession rate. If Duke wants to come out of this matchup in the Sweet 16, it will have to be attentive to open looks from outside.
Get Seth Curry Going Early
Curry has been dealing with a right leg injury for most of the season, so Coach K will be persistent in getting his top perimeter scorer involved in the first half.
With the Blue Devils last playing on Thursday, Curry will be playing a game on 48 hours rest. Duke Hoop Blog conducted a study that showed Curry’s struggles on less than four-days rest, including drops in points and offensive efficiency.
It will be paramount for Duke to run some sets for Curry early, perhaps some pick-and-rolls with Mason Plumlee to test the Bluejays' reactive defense.
Focus on Containing McDermott
McDermott has been the Bluejays’ only double-digit scorer, averaging 23.2 points on the year. As a result, Duke will have to key on the former Wooden Award candidate and make his teammates beat them.
While Creighton has four other shooters that convert at 40 percent or better, the Bluejays tend to be more three-point centric when McDermott can’t make plays.
At this point in the tournament, no team’s weakness will equal its season’s end. The Blue Devils will attempt to take away McDermott, hope Gregory Echenique can’t capitalize inside and the three-point shooter don’t score at a Wichita State-like rate.
Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game.
Mike Shiekman is a Breaking News Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow his March Madness coverage on Twitter.