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Meaningless Tourney Speculation

So now on to the Tournament, where the Duke men hope to match the women in
triumph.  It's going to be tough, frankly, but the format is as favorable
to Duke as it could possibly be.

After playing Thursday night at 9, Duke gets Friday off before playing the
winner of the UNC-Wake game, which is Friday at noon. 25 1/2 hours later, Duke
will play the survivor. 

Maryland will play the winner of the Tech-FSU game Friday afternoon at 2 and
will the winner there (likely Maryland) will play the State-UVa winner on
Saturday afternoon at 4. 

So if Duke makes it to Sunday's 1:00 game, they will have a) had a day
between game 1 and game 2, b) have played a less fresh team and, if it's UNC, a
not particularly deep team (Wake however has some reasonable reserves).

So what to make of all this?

Well, assuming Dunleavy doesn't play, here's what we think might happen. We
might change our opinion tomorrow.  This is scenario-building at it's
cheesiest, so don't take any of this to the bank.

  • Having beat Clemson twice, Duke should beat them on a neutral court,
    though Clemson is improving rapidly.
  • If the teams continue recent trends, Wake will beat UNC. They are playing
    better at the end of the season, and Songaila has really come on. However, ACC fans know better than to discount UNC.
  • In the second round, whoever they get, Duke will either advance or lose
    narrowly. If they do advance, their depth will catch up to them in the title
    game and may cost them the game.
  • On the other side of the bracket, emotion will carry Tech forward.
  • Maryland will terminate that momentum on Friday and Cremins will leave to
    great applause and affection.
  • Aside from the UNC-Wake game, UVa and NCSU is the pivotal game.  Who
    will show up? The UVa team which rallied to stun Maryland? The State team
    which completely trashed FSU? At their best these teams can play with anyone
    in the conference. At their worst, they are really prone to bad days. We'll
    go with the more consistent team and pick UVa to advance - but we're wary of
    State. That was an impressive way to end a losing streak.
  • Maryland will beat UVa and avenge their streak-breaking loss of last
    weekend to go to the Finals.
  • If Duke has survived the second round game - we think they can and should,
    but they are getting worn down (though Coach K surely knows this and will
    work them very lightly this week we imagine) and may not - they will have
    the emotion to overcome Maryland, but not necessarily the legs. Chances are
    one of the freshman will have to come up really big for Duke to win. 
    Are they up to it? We'll know soon.

The tourney this year has a twist it hasn't seen in awhile: UVa, UNC, Wake,
and maybe UVa aren't necessarily in the tournament yet.  A loss for any of
these teams could kill their tourney hopes. So the pressure, which in recent
years has been very mild, is suddenly very real.