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Next Up In NCAA Tournament For Duke - Yale

Time: 2:40 || Location: Providence || TV: CBS

Nov 25, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) drives around Yale Bulldogs guard Anthony Dallier (1) in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
Nov 25, 2015; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) drives around Yale Bulldogs guard Anthony Dallier (1) in their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Duke and Yale tangle on Saturday and it's a bit unusual in a couple of ways: first of all, as many people have pointed out, it's a basketball battle between two elite universities. A lot of people have reduced it to a battle between preppies, but that's ridiculous. These are two really good teams.

It's also a bit unusual in that Duke has a rematch with an Ivy League team - in the tournament. We're not sure that's ever happened. Certainly not in recent memory.

But there it is.

These teams played in Durham on November 25th, which was a long time ago and longer in terms of this team's development.

In that game, Duke started Marshall Plumlee, Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Derryck Thornton and Amile Jefferson.

Brandon Ingram came off the bench that night as did Luke Kennard.

Jefferson had 12 rebounds

Of course Yale had Jack Montague then and doesn't now: the Bulldog's senior point guard was expelled, allegedly for sexual assault. He disputes the charge and has hired a lawyer.

His spot went to 6-6 Anthony Dalier but replacing your senior point guard deep into the season isn't easy. Still, Yale has lost just once since Montague was expelled.

The point guard responsibilities have gone to Makai Mason, a 6-1 sophomore. He's averaging 3.7 assists but scores too - 16.7 ppg.

Yale's not a big team - of the starters only 6-8 Justin Sears is over 6-6 - but this is a brilliant rebounding team. The Bulldogs average 40 rpg and against Baylor, in Round One of the NCAA tournament, Yale outrebounded Baylor 36-32 (although Baylor won the battle on the offensive boards, 14-8).

Everyone talked about the rebounding in this game and it was impressive. But here's a bigger difference: Yale got 29 free throws and hit 22 of them (75.9%).

Baylor hit 9-15 (60%).

That's a 13 point advantage. In a five point victory, that's a big deal.

In Durham, Yale hit 7-12 (58.3%) while Duke shot 17-24 (70.8%).

Duke won 80-61.

Yale shot 39.7% for the game, incidentally; against Baylor the Bulldogs were 53.1%.

Here's another stat to keep in mind: against Baylor, Sears, Brandon Sherrod and Nick Victor all had four fouls.

In Durham, Sherrod fouled out, while Sears and Victor had three each (for Duke, Jefferson, Thornton and Jones had three, while Plumlee and Allen both had four.

No games are identical of course but there are some factors to keep in mind.

Here's another: Yale has a bit more depth than Duke but against Baylor, Yale went just seven deep, functionally anyway. Khaliq Ghani got five minutes and Trey Phills got one.

So depth might be a wash.

The main thing though is that the first game was played in late November.

Since then, both teams have been through conference grinds. And while Duke's was tougher, in non-conference games Yale nearly beat SMU and Illinois and weren't that far off with USC.

We can't speak for Yale, but we have a good idea - as do many of you - how much this team has improved. It has no depth. It has minimal size other than Plumlee and, lately, Jeter.

But it has immense heart and it has improved a great deal, not least of all on defense. And while everyone from Allen down has improved, we're not sure if anyone has improved more than Thornton.

Kennard has been starting but Thornton's defense has improved tremendously. He's had a huge impact on the team.

His impact is more subtle than Ingram's. It's hard to remember now but in November, people were starting to mutter how overrated he was and to find flaws in his game. Now? He's being touted as no worse than the #2 pick in this summer's NBA draft.

Both freshmen have had huge impacts on Duke's success but really everyone has improved. Remember when everyone wondered if Allen could be a major factor? Remember when Plumlee was seen as a liability?

Every player in the rotation has improved since the first Yale game.

Yale is a tough team to be sure. But so is Duke. If the Blue Devils show the fight they showed against Wilmington, they'll be fine.