Some had predicted that Duke might be shipped out west once again, while
others thought Duke might face the nightmare scenario of being the #1 seed
in Hartford with UConn as their #2. However, I noted after Duke won the
ACC tourney that they had done everything necessary to get the Norfolk
regional, especially with both Tennessee & UConn losing early in their
conference tourneys. With Texas losing as well, shipping Duke out of
Norfolk would have been a travesty, and to the credit of the committee,
they didn't. Here's ESPN's take on Duke and their chances, though bear in mind it is
from "experts" Stacey Dales-Schuman and Nancy Lieberman.
In the first round, Duke will take on the Demons of Northwestern State.
If that name is familiar to you, it's because Duke already played them
once this year. It was in Alana Beard's homecoming game in Louisiana, a
game Duke won easily. NWS does have some very talented guards, including
Alana's former AAU teammate Diamond Cosby, high-scoring forward Amanda
Bennett and the nation's leader in assists, La'Terrica Dobin. Dobin in
fact has been the leader for three straight years, an amazing feat. NWS
doesn't have a lot of size and turns the ball over a bit much, but they
will scrap the whole game. Duke will need to display a lot of energy if
they are to feel comfortable, and pound the ball in down low.
Assuming that the Devils manage to win in the first round (never a
sure bet) Duke's second-round opponent will be either Old Dominion (who
would host the regionals in Norfolk if they win out) or Marquette. The
two teams are very different. Marquette squeaked in thanks to playing in
a tough Conference-USA, beating DePaul twice. They are a defensive team
that will slow things down. ODU plays in a weak conference but plays a
tough national schedule, beating both UNC and Penn State at home. And
there's the rub--they aren't a great road team. Still, they are very
quick and will push for a manic pace to the game. Duke played them last
year on a neutral court and was pushed hard by a team that at that time
was still trying to gel. Both would be challenging second round foes.
I won't get into later matchups until they materialize. I will say that
it's interesting that 5 seed Louisiana Tech must play 12 seed Montana on
their home court, 3 seed Boston College could wind up playing Ohio State
on their home court, and 2 seed Kansas State might have to play
Minnesota (possibly with a healthy Lindsey Whalen) on their home court.
The Lady Techsters are steaming over their low seed, considering that they're
ranked #5 in the country. Their low RPI just killed them, not to mention
a big loss to Tennessee. They would indeed be a tough third round foe, if
both teams make it that far.
Of note is that this is Duke's fourth straight #1 seed as the team
strives for its third straight final four and first title. Check out the
team's reactions; everyone's happy to be playing at home and
against a foe they're familiar with.