If the Duke Blue Devils are to advance to a meeting with the Wichita State Shockers in the Final Four, they have to defeat the No. 1 seed Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals have defeated opponents by an average of 21.6 points per game in the NCAA tournament.
They haven't quite played a team on the level of the Blue Devils, though.
The winner of this game is my pick to win the national championship, and here's what Duke must do to be that team.
Slow the Tempo
Louisville wants to play at a break-neck pace, but the Blue Devils must slow the ball down to take exploit their size advantage.
The bulk of this responsibility will fall on Quinn Cook and Seth Curry. They will be charged with handling Louisville's pressure.
If the Blue Devils can get this game to stay in the half court, Cook and Curry should have no problem getting shots over the Cardinals' small backcourt.
Ryan Kelly Must Make Threes
Gorgui Dieng is a great shot-blocker, but if Kelly is making shots from distance, it will put pressure on Dieng to come away from the basket.
How far will the winner of this game advance?
With Plumlee on the inside, Kelly could provide the balance that could break the Cardinals' half-court defense.
Spacing will be paramount for Duke, and no Blue Devil helps to create spacing like Kelly. The only problem for Duke is that Kelly has missed his last 14 three-point attempts.
Duke has won despite his shooting woes, but it is 5-0 when Kelly makes three or more shots from deep. The Devils need him to find his stroke again.
Duke was out-rebounded by the Michigan State Spartans, but they still won the Sweet 16 matchup. They can't afford to be beaten on the glass in this one.
Getting offensive rebounds will be most important for them. Second-chance opportunities will lead to open looks from the outside and will keep the Cardinals out of transition.
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