Tennessee survived a late push by Louisiana Thursday night and advanced to the Round of 32 where the Duke Blue Devils and first year coach Jon Scheyer stand in the way of the program’s second trip to the Sweet 16 under coach Rick Barnes.
Duke enters the Round of 32 matchup playing as well as any team in the country and a popular pick to make a run to the Final Four in Houston.
Here’s a quick look at the Duke Blue Devils.
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How Duke Got Here
The Blue Devils were already poised to make the NCAA Tournament in Scheyer’s first season before winning the ACC Tournament in Greensboro and earning the conference’s automatic bid.
Duke blistered a strong 12-seed in Oral Roberts Thursday night, building a double-digit lead before the Eagles scored and never looking back before coasting to a 74-51 victory.
Duke enters the Round of 32 matchup as hot as any team in the field. The Blue Devils are winners of their last 10 games, the nation’s fourth longest active streak.
While the Blue Devils largely beat up on poor competition in their six-game winning streak to end the regular season, Duke beat three — and largely dominated two — NCAA Tournament teams in the ACC Tournament.
There’s no doubt Duke is playing its best basketball entering the Round of 32 matchup.
Where Duke Impresses
The Blue Devils impress in a lot of areas and it starts with the way they play defense. Duke ranks 15th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and does a great job of playing defense without fouling and defending the rim.
They do that in large part to being the tallest team in the entire country. Duke’s roster is full of big athletes who can protect the rim and play defense.
The Blue Devils rank 17th nationally in effective field goal percentage defense because of how effective they are against two-point and three-point offense— ranking in the top 35 nationally in both.
Offensively, Duke is solid but not as strong as they are on the defensive end. The Blue Devils shoot the three-pointer below the national average but also don’t get to the free throw line often. Duke makes its bank on two-point scoring— particularly at the rim.
Duke ranks near the middle of most offensive categories nationally but where they shine is on the offensive glass. That previously mentioned size shows up here where Duke makes rebounds 36% of its misses. In fact, both Tennessee and Duke rank in the top eight nationally in offensive rebounding.
The battle of the boards will be an extremely important one against the Blue Devils.
Where Duke Struggles
Duke genuinely struggles in very few area. The biggest area is that the Blue Devils struggle is turning opponents over. Scheyer’s first Duke team forces turnovers on 16.6% of possessions— ranking 353rd nationally. That could prove crucial in the Round of 32 matchup as Tennessee’s turned the ball over heavily in recent weeks.
The Blue Devils also have their shots blocked at the rim at a pretty high rate, making this a potentially beneficial matchup for Jonas Aidoo who quietly played very well against Louisiana.
Duke is average shooting the ball from the perimeter and taking care of the basketball, ranking near the nation’s average in three-point shooting and turnovers.
Standout Blue Devils
Freshman big man Kyle Filipowski is Duke’s best player, averaging 15.1 points and nine rebounds per game and has been a breakout star the back half of the regular season. Filipowski is most effective with his back to the basket but can also play on the perimeter and has made 29% of his three-point attempts on the season.
Backcourt duo Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach are a strong one-two punch from the perimeter. The freshman Proctor leads the Blue Devils in assists and is averaging 9.2 points per game. The junior Roach is back after being a major piece of Duke’s run to the Final Four last season.
Roach has been an effective scorer all season, averaging 13.6 points per game to go along with 3.1 assists.
Freshman forward Dariq Whitehead is Duke’s three-point specialist. Averaging 8.3 points on 43% shooting from three-point range, Whitehead was a perfect three-of-three from deep against Oral Roberts.
Freshman Dereck Lively II provides little offense for the Blue Devils but plenty of defense. The 7-foot-1 center averages an extremely impressive 2.4 blocks per game.