Duke Basketball: How Blue Devils Match Up vs. Potential NCAA Title Contenders

Mike KlineAnalyst IFebruary 16, 2011

Duke Basketball: How Blue Devils Match Up Versus Potential NCAA Title Contenders

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    CORAL GABLES, FL - FEBRUARY 13: Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils talks to his teammates as they come back on court after a time out against the Miami Hurricanes on February 13, 2011 at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Florida. The Blue Devils
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    With the NCAA Tournament just weeks away from beginning, fans for every tournament-eligible team will start peaking at projected brackets and debating their seedings.

    Duke fans are no different and if the tournament started today, the Blue Devils would most likely be a No. 2 seed, though a No. 1 seed is more attainable following Kansas' recent loss to Kansas State.

    Despite being the odds-on favorite to repeat heading into this year, Duke has gone through some growing pains as it lost Kyrie Irving likely for the remainder of the season and has been adjusting to life without its star ever since.

    Other teams have leap frogged the Blue Devils in the polls, but Duke is a serious contender.

    Here is a look at some of the other contenders and how the Blue Devils stack up.


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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 27:  Kyle Fogg #21 of the Arizona Wildcats drives against Tyrel Reed #14 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational at The Orleans Arena November 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Kansas won 87-79.
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Sean Miller has helped the Wildcats regain some semblance of control in the free-falling Pac 10 this season.

    Arizona looks to be on its way back to national recognition. The Wildcats have talent and athleticism and appear to be solidly in the NCAA Tournament this season.

    That being said, a matchup with the Blue Devils would probably be a bit much for the Wildcats to endure at this point in their rebuilding stage.

    The game might be close early, but in the end Duke's experience would provide the greatest advantage.


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    GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Forward Alex Tyus #23  of the Florida Gators grabs a rebound against the Ohio State Buckeyes November 16, 2010 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    The Gators seem to be the elite team coming out of the SEC this season.

    They have shown they are a step above last year's juggernaut Kentucky. They look to be a mid-level seed, but one that could match up early in the tournament with Duke if the Blue Devils are a No. 2 seed.

    Florida has some weapons in Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons and Ervin Walker. The Gators could give the Blue Devils a good game and possibly beat them, but it would take an off-night shooting from Duke's plethora of shooters and weapons.

    But in the tournament, anything is possible.


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    LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 20:  Jordan Taylor #11 of the Wisconsin Badgers brings the ball up the court against the UNLV Rebels during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center November 20, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 68-65.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty I
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    If anyone doubted how good the Badgers can be, all they need do is look at how they came back against Ohio State.

    Wisconsin is one of those teams that is often overlooked and one that can match up with big and small teams alike.

    The Badgers have experience beating Duke, albeit on their home floor. The NCAA Tournament evens the playing field, though, and the Badgers aren't high on the Blue Devils' list of teams they want to see.

    Duke has a slight edge in talent, but there is no doubt Wisconsin's aggressiveness, size and explosive playmaker in Jordan Taylor can give the Blue Devils some real problems.


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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - FEBRUARY 13: JaJuan Johnson #25 of the Purdue Boilermakers takes a shot against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall on February 13, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Purdue defeated Illinois 81-70. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Purdue has a little bit of recent history against Duke. Last year without Robbie Hummel, the No. 4 seed Boilermakers lost to No. 1 seed Duke 70-57 in the Sweet Sixteen, but the game was tied early in the second half.

    This year, if the two meet up in the NCAA tournament again, the Boilermakers could be in a similar situation with Hummel being out due to injury and them being seeded lower than they probably deserve.

    Purdue has talent in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and would surely give Duke a great game, win or lose.


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    VILLANOVA, PA - FEBRUARY 12: Corey Fisher #10 of the Villanova Wildcats gets held by Brad Wanamaker #22 of the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Pavilion on February 12, 2011 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won 57-54.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Image
    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Another team Duke isn't likely to see until the Sweet Sixteen at the earliest, the Wildcats have shown that the Blue Devils aren't going to intimidate them in the tournament.

    Two years ago, Nova wiped the floor with Duke in the Sweet Sixteen on its way to the Final Four.

    With its bevy of quick guards that can shoot and drive, Villanova has the kind of team that can get Duke in foul trouble and give its half-court defense fits. An off-shooting night would not be good for the Blue Devils in this matchup.

    However, Duke may have the advantage if the aggressive versions of Miles and Mason Plumlee, and Ryan Kelly show up.

Notre Dame

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 08:  Ben Hansbrough #23 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish plays defense during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2010 DIRECTV SEC/BIG EAST Invitational at Freedom Hall on December 8, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Pho
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Irish can amaze or perplex depending on your perspective.

    They present some potential matchup problems for Duke, but their greatest asset may be their toughness, which derives from Ben Hansbrough.

    The name should ring a bell, as his brother struck fear in the hearts of most Duke fans for four years when he played for arch-rival North Carolina.

    His fearless play gives the Irish its personality, and while they may be out-gunned in a game against the Blue Devils, they certainly won't back down or concede anything. If Duke wants to win this game, it will have to earn it.


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    LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 05:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young University Cougars shoots a technical free throw during a game against the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center January 5, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. BYU won 89-77.  (Photo by Ethan
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Duke fans do not know much about BYU. The extent of that knowledge centers around Jimmer Fredette.

    The Cougar's All-American and National Player of the Year favorite does it all. Duke matches up well with BYU otherwise.

    While Duke generally defends the three-point line as well as, if not better than, any other team in the country, Fredette's version of the three-point line is just a little different. Chances are the Blue Devils would potentially concede some of his scoring if they can shut down the rest of the team.

    That being said, Fredette is a special kind of player who could carry his team past just about anyone, and the Blue Devils would not be an exception.


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    WASHINGTON, DC- JANUARY 12:  Austin Freeman #15 of the Georgetown Hoyas drives to the basket during a college basketball game against  Gilbert Brown #5 ofthe Pittsburgh Panthers on January 12, 2011 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.   The Panthers w
    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Georgetown is not too unfamiliar to Duke fans, and to beating the Blue Devils as well.

    Duke suffered one of its worst losses of last season against the Hoyas. Georgetown depends a lot on Austin Freeman, but he has a nice supporting cast that is athletic and long. That combination always gives Duke problems.

    That being said, Georgetown is hot right now, but has shown some inconsistency at times. If the two teams meet in the tournament, Duke would be favored. As long as the Blue Devils don't have a meltdown, they should have an advantage over the Hoyas.

San Diego State

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 12:  Billy White #32 and and Kawhi Leonard #15 of the San Diego State Aztecs celebrate their 63-57 victory over the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center February 12, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Imag
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The Aztecs are a bit of a wild card. Like Duke, they are currently projected as a No. 2 seed, so any potential matchup between the schools would come in the Final Four or National Championship if the projections stay the same.

    Confidence in San Diego State should be cautious at best. So far, its record is impressive but the resume is a little less so.

    Aside from a victory over Gonzaga, who has greatly disappointed this season, the Aztecs have no victories over a top-25 team. Their only matchup with a top-ranked team came against BYU, who handled them easily.

    The Aztecs aren't likely to go far in the tournament unless they get a very favorable matchup. If they do meet the Blue Devils, it will be late in the tournament, and that means they will have proved themselves a little more than they currently have.


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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 17:  Nasir Robinson #35, Lamar Patterson #21 and Dante Taylor #11 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrate near the end of the game against the Syracuse Orange at Petersen Events Center on January 17, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Panthers are potentially the best team in the best conference, and their toughness and athleticism could give Duke problems.

    Still, Duke's ability to lock down on defense and its own toughness would make this a very intriguing matchup.

    This could end up being a slugfest, and depending on how aggressive the teams are allowed to play, attrition could become a factor for both.

    Duke has the slightest of edges, but a Pitt victory is far from impossible.


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    LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 22: Texas Longhorns players huddle during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on January 22, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Texas has the look of a team that is determined and capable of erasing some of its past failures in the tournament.

    A meeting between these two looks to be in the Elite Eight at the earliest. The Longhorns have the right mix of athleticism and scoring ability to cause Duke headaches.

    However, one has to wonder if Duke's dominating history against Texas weighs down on the Longhorns mentally. While that could be a good motivating factor for the Longhorns, it could also weigh on them in a potential matchup, especially if Duke jumps out to a lead.


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    LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 12:  Marcus Morris #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks talks with his brother Markieff Morris #21 during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones on February 12, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Many Duke fans have no desire to see the Jayhawks in the tournament.

    For starters they are athletic and have a solid inside presence in the Morris twins, who could provide some matchup difficulties for Duke.

    The two teams, though, appear to be fairly equally matched, and this game could come down to shooting.

    If Kansas has its way inside and Duke doesn't shoot well, the advantage definitely goes to the Jayhawks.

Ohio State

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    CHAMPAIGN, IL - JANUARY 22: Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes gestures toward the student section as he leaves the floor after the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Assembly Hall on January 22, 2011 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio Stat
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The team favored by most pundits these days is the Buckeyes. They have the tools to dominate in March and cut down the nets in April.

    The Buckeyes have only one hiccup on the season, in a game at No. 10 Wisconsin which they led by double figures. Everyone knows about Jared Sullinger, but for Duke to win, it needs to control David Lighty.

    Lighty makes everything go, and Mike Krzyzewski's defensive game plan would involve stopping his ability to create for himself and others.

    This would be a late tournament matchup, potentially for the title, and it would have the potential to be a great game. Duke would get the slightest advantage due to experience, but the Buckeyes have played with veteran poise just about all year, so to pick a winner would be premature.