The fourth No. 1 seed, Duke, has made it to the Sweet 16—and to a matchup with the Arizona Wildcats.
The NCAA tournament selection committee has been widely criticized for giving the Blue Devils a No. 1 seed over Notre Dame, but because Notre Dame is out and Duke is still dancing, the critics are complaining about other things.
“They aren’t big enough.” “They rely too heavily on the three.”
These are just a couple of the many criticisms that the Duke Blue Devils are facing, yet they have continued to win.
Duke found out in the week before the tournament that they would be joined once again by freshman point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving’s comeback was supposed to make Duke favorites to make the Final Four, and the critics were silenced.
In their Round Three game against Michigan, the Blue Devils nearly blew a late 10-point lead, and the critics came roaring back.
Now Duke needs to focus on beating Arizona (and in convincing fashion) to silence the critics, and these are the keys to do it. Bear in mind that the successful use of a few of these keys will result in a victory; not all are necessary to win.
The critics are right that Duke shoots too many threes at times; they need to hit their shots.
Duke is going to get open looks from the three, and in the games that they’ve lost, they usually don’t shoot well from three. When they lost against St. John’s, Duke started the game 1-of-21 from three, and they went on to lose embarrassingly.
Duke shoots 37.4 percent from three, with three players shooting over 40 percent from deep.
If Duke knocks down their threes, they are one of the best teams in the nation, and Arizona will be in serious trouble if they are.
Derrick Williams' three point play won their game against Texas 70-69.
Arizona’s fantastic forward has won both games for them so far.
Williams blocked Memphis’ game-winning shot attempt to seal the win for the Wildcats in Round Two. In Round Three, Williams completed a three-point play when Arizona was down by two to win the game against Texas.
Williams is just incredible, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds per game—not to mention shooting over 58 percent from three-point range. Williams can usually find different ways to score, scoring 17 points against Texas while only shooting 4-of-15 from the field.
Williams has the potential to take over any game that he plays in, and Duke needs to limit the damage done by him if they are going to win.
In 2010, Kyle Singler was one of three big players for the NCAA Champion Duke Blue Devils, but he has disappointed this season.
The senior was dubbed the player to watch in 2011, and he was a unanimous preseason Player of the Year pick, but now he is not even the biggest star on the team.
In the 2009-10 season Singler averaged 17.7 points per game, and shot 40 percent from three. This season is a different story, however, and Singler is averaging 16.9 points per game and about 30 percent from three.
Singler has shown flashes of brilliance, scoring over 20 points in a dozen games this season, yet he is averaging a mere 12 points per game in the NCAA tournament.
If the Blue Devils are going to beat Arizona and make another run to the Final Four, Singler needs to step up his play.
We all know about Nolan Smith’s Player of the Year-worthy season, and about Kyle Singler and how he needs to step it up, but the supporting cast is what makes this team great.
Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins are long-range specialists, both shooting over 40 percent from three.
Curry was averaging 15.8 points per game until the Michigan game when he got shut out, but if he can bounce back, he will be a huge factor in Duke’s plans.
Dawkins showed his potential, scoring double-digits nine times in their first 13 games, including 28 points against Bradley. Dawkins has not been used effectively in recent games, but he has the potential to catch fire and dominate a game.
Ryan Kelly is a 6’11" forward who can shoot threes and get inside. Kelly is not the bulkiest guy on the court, but he can score, and he will also need to rebound to help the small Blue Devils.
We can’t forget about the Plumlee brothers.
Mason and Miles are the big men on Duke's side. The “Plumtrees” are a big part of the game because Duke is a small team, and they need help rebounding. If the Plumlees can get inside and can rebound for the Blue Devils, they will be tough to beat, since their biggest weakness is the inside.
The Blue Devils have lost games in which they have struggled to drive, and relied solely on the three-ball.
While Duke is a great three-point shooting team, they cannot rely on that alone.
Duke has good potential to drive, with POY candidate Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving—coming back from a toe injury that left him sidelined for nearly three months.
When a team like Duke drives to the key, only good things can happen.
If the player driving can score in bunches like Smith, Irving or Singler, they are the first priority for the defense. If the lane is blocked, they can dish it out to one of their many three point threats, including Smith, Irving, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins or even Ryan Kelly.
Duke specializes from deep, and if they drive and kick they will get open looks and knock down their shots.
If Duke doesn’t drive to the key often enough, Arizona will know to play three players around the outside to shutdown Duke’s threes like St. John’s and North Carolina did in Duke’s worst losses of the season. This would allow them to disrupt Duke’s shots and force misses, leading to a poor offensive effort from one of the nation’s deadliest teams.
If Duke drives to the key and does not rely solely on their shooters, they will win this game and we will see them dancing in the Elite Eight.