NCAA Tournament Results: Duke Basketball Survives Despite Itself vs. Michigan
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You can't say enough good things about how Michigan played Sunday against Duke.
A couple of times the Wolverines could have packed it in and easily lost by 10 or more, but they didn't quit fighting or attacking the Blue Devils.
That is more than I can say for Duke, who went to its patented stall ball offense with about six minutes to go and watched the Wolverines scrap back into a game that the Blue Devils should have put away.
Duke went small, with neither Mason nor Miles Plumlee playing much in the second half and none down the stretch.
Mike Krzyzewski was content to watch his offense pass the ball around the perimeter, wait until there were about 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock and then chuck up a shot from the cheap seats.
There was no sign of attacking the zone from Duke, and considering the Blue Devils have one of the most dynamic guards in college basketball in Nolan Smith, it was a bit frustrating to watch.
Kyrie Irving, back from injury for the second game, didn't show much explosiveness either against the zone, though he was masterful from the free-throw line and did hit a clutch shot late in the game while attacking the basket.
Seth Curry was a non-factor, while Kyle Singler couldn't buy a shot from beyond the arc and was sidled with foul trouble.
How do you explain Duke's performance against Michigan?
Add in the less-than-spectacular play of the Plumlee brothers, and the ingredients were there for Michigan to take home a shocking win and send the No. 1-seeded Blue Devils home early.
Instead, Duke hit some free throws down the stretch, and it is on its way to Anaheim next week for the Sweet 16.
In that week, Duke needs to rest up, but more importantly, it needs to find that hunger that drove it in the ACC tournament. For stretches of Duke's win against Michigan, it appeared to be going through the motions.
The Blue Devils also need to try to either integrate Irving back into the offense or make it Smith's team. At times it looked like they were waiting for someone to step up, but no one did with any consistency.
There were countless turnovers by Duke, but it forced only seven. There were also significant defensive lapses and that has to be fixed.
The thing that has most Duke fans talking has to be the implementation of the slow-down offense so early in the game.
It would have made sense had Duke possessed a significant lead, but the lead was tenuous at best, even when it was as high as 13.
But pretty or ugly, a win is a win and Duke is on to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. What awaits the Blue Devils on Thursday has yet to be determined as of this article, but it won't be easy.
Texas or Arizona present significant challenges, and it is pointless to look beyond that at any potential matchups. Because if the Blue Devils play like they did against Michigan, they won't be playing Saturday.
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