Duke Blue Devils' Blueprint to Win the 2014 NCAA Tournament

Gideon Rubin@@RubinGideonFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

Duke Blue Devils' Blueprint to Win the 2014 NCAA Tournament

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Duke's annual appearance in the NCAA tournament is about as sure a thing as there is in competitive sports.

    This year is no exception, as the selection committee has seeded the Blue Devils third in the Midwest region, where they will play No. 14 Mercer on Friday.

    The Blue Devils will be making their 19th consecutive tournament appearance and their 29th in 30 years under coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski.

    The Blue Devils are coming off a 72-63 loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament finals.

    Duke has won four titles under Krzyzewski, with their most recent championship coming in 2010.

    Here's how they can win another one.

Ignore Stat Sheets

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Duke is a bit of a statistical enigma.

    Browse through all major statistical categories and you won't find the Duke Blue Devils at or near the top of any of them.

    The Blue Devils average 79.1 points, which ranks them 27th in the nation, but they aren't even in the top 50 in any others.

    They rank an unremarkable 97th in points allowed, averaging 67.1, and a woeful 193rd on the boards, averaging 34.5 rebounds and 272nd on the defensive glass (averaging 22.5).

    And yet Duke keeps winning because the Blue Devils consistently do all the little things that don't show up on stat lines. There are no statistical categories for hustling for loose balls and making clutch plays down the stretch.

    The Blue Devils under Coach K have always excelled in intangibles. Count on that pattern to follow true to form.

The 'Coach K' Factor

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Few coaches in any sport command the respect that Coach K does.

    That respect gets star players to buy into the team concept he preaches, even if that means accepting lesser roles that can negatively impact their draft status.

    Krzyzewski knows his way around the block and has brought lesser teams to the Final Four.

    With two projected first-round picks on this year's team—freshman forwards Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are picked to go in the top 10 of most mock drafts—Duke figures to have enough firepower to challenge for a title.

    The fact that Duke can count on getting the close calls down the stretch is an added benefit of the Coach K Factor.

Dynamic Duo

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    In Parker and Hood, Duke has one of the game's most formidable one-two punches.

    Parker is averaging 19.2 points and 8.8 rebounds and Hood, 16.5 points and 3.9 boards.

    Junior guard Quinn Cook is a dynamic playmaker too, averaging 11.5 points and 4.3 assists.

Hit the Boards

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    If there's one area that Duke needs Coach K to work his magic, it's in the rebounding department.

    The Blue Devils will need to find a way to overcome the poor rebounding that's dogged the Blue Devils all season.

    It's unrealistic to expect the Blue Devils to make dramatic improvements in that department, but Coach K will need to find a way to minimize rebounding disparities against bigger and tougher teams deeper into the tournament.

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