Duke Basketball: Grading Blue Devils Through Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament
The Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 66-50 victory over Creighton Sunday night in Philadelphia, Pa.
With the wins against Albany and Creighton, Duke moves to 29-5 on the season and is now just two wins away from the Final Four.
The first two games were not exactly picturesque for the Blue Devils, but it was enough to survive, advance and set up a fourth-round contest against Michigan State.
Let's hand out some grades for the Blue Devils through the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
All stats via ESPN.com.
Quinn Cook: A-
Quinn Cook didn't do much scoring against Albany and Creighton, but he didn't need to score to have a major impact on the game.
Cook did a beautiful job of running the offense for the Blue Devils and helped control the pace of the game.
In the two games in Philadelphia, Pa., Cook finished with 17 assists and only three turnovers.
If he can continue this strong play in the next game against Michigan State, Duke will be in great shape.
Seth Curry: A+
Seth Curry has been Duke's MVP through its first two games of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
He carried the Blue Devils against Albany by scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting and then followed that up with an incredible second-half performance against Creighton.
After being held to four points in the first half against the Bluejays, Curry erupted for 13 points in the second half to lead Duke to victory.
Now, the key for Duke's senior sharpshooter is to rest his leg over the next few days so he can be ready for what will surely be a very physical battle against Tom Izzo's Spartans.
Rasheed Sulaimon: A-
As I said before the tournament began, Rasheed Sulaimon should be in the starting lineup over Tyler Thornton.
I don't know if Mike Krzyzewski read my article, but he agreed and inserted Sulaimon into the starting five against Albany and Creighton.
Sulaimon responded beautifully by scoring 28 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the team's first two games, including a team-high 21 points for the Blue Devils in the victory over Creighton.
When Sulaimon plays with confidence and takes advantage of his mid-range game, he makes Duke very difficult to defend. It appears to be great news that this freshman is again pushing through the "freshman wall."
Ryan Kelly: D
If you had said Ryan Kelly would be a nonfactor in Duke's first two games in the NCAA tournament, Duke fans would have thought the Blue Devils would be in trouble.
Kelly has not been able to find any offensive rhythm and really struggled with his shooting, going 3-of-13 combined in the past two games.
However, despite being limited by foul trouble, which was a recurring theme against Creighton, Kelly helped frustrate Doug McDermott into a difficult game.
Clearly, the Blue Devils will need much more from Kelly if they are to advance any deeper into the NCAA tournament.
Mason Plumlee: B
Mason Plumlee's two games in Philadelphia, Pa. were basically polar opposites of each other.
He was dominant in the team's opening game against Albany, scoring 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds.
In the game against Creighton, he couldn't stay out of foul trouble and was limited to 27 minutes of action before fouling out. Yet, in the time he was on the court, he helped establish a strong presence on defense for the Blue Devils.
Now, Plumlee can begin preparing for what should be an incredible battle between him and Derrick Nix of Michigan State.
Duke's offense did enough to get the job done, but it wasn't at the level the Blue Devils have played at during other times this season.
Duke shot 58 percent from the field in the victory over Albany but only shot 38 percent in the win over Creighton.
In what could actually be a good sign for the offense, the Blue Devils won two games without shooting well from three-point range.
Now, maybe the Blue Devils can find the touch from beyond the arc just in time for Michigan State.
In one of the most surprising displays of the season, Duke won with its defense.
The Blue Devils were able to overpower Albany with superior talent and athleticism but the defense against Creighton was outstanding.
Creighton entered the game as one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and the Blue Devils were able to force them to shoot 30 percent from the field, including going 2-of-19 from three-point range.
Most impressive was the committee approach used to slow down Doug McDermott, who was only 4-of-16 from the field against the Blue Devils.
Duke's strong defense in Philadelphia, Pa. is certainly something to build on going forward.
A few players off the Duke bench really stepped up to provide key contributions in the team's first two games.
Thornton provided quality minutes against Albany and Creighton, and Amile Jefferson gave the team a huge lift in the second half against Creighton.
In Jefferson's return to his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa., he stepped up and helped stop McDermott while Plumlee, Kelly and Josh Hairston were riddled with foul trouble.
For a team that is known for having a short bench, the bench players for Duke proved their worth in these first two games.
Mike Krzyzewski: A
With the win over Creighton, Coach Krzyzewski has now led Duke to an astounding 21 appearances in the Sweet 16.
Krzyzewski did a great job dealing with foul trouble against Creighton and rotating his big men to defend McDermott.
Krzyzewski was also able to do what many coaches in America have failed to do this season—successfully game-plan against McDermott, one of the best offensive players in college basketball.
Now, Coach K turns his attention to another showdown with Tom Izzo, one of his best friends.
Krzyzewski is one of the best in the business at preparing for an opponent, and it will be interesting to see what he has up his sleeves for the Spartans.