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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: Duke vs Ducks

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Time: 10:07 Eastern || Venue: Honda Center, Anaheim CA || TV: TBS

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March 23, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) speaks to media during practice the day before the semifinals of the West regional of the NCAA Tournament at Honda Center.
March 23, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Matt Jones (13) speaks to media during practice the day before the semifinals of the West regional of the NCAA Tournament at Honda Center.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Next up for Duke is Oregon, and the Ducks pose some serious challenges for Duke, but let's dispense with one thing.

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Yes, Oregon is deeper than Duke, but don't read too much into that. Oregon pretty much has a seven-man rotation too.

But that seven-man rotation is pretty solid.

Jordan Bell (6-9 senior), Dwayne Benjamin (6-7 senior), 6-3 Casey Benson (6-3 sophomore PG), Chris Boucher (6-10 junior), Dillon Brooks (6-7 sophomore), Elgin Cook (6-6 senior) and Tyler Dorsey (6-4 freshman) offer a tremendously athletic core.

Bell and Boucher are both good shotblockers and average about five per game.

Surprisingly, rebounding between Duke and Oregon is almost the same, with Duke having a slight edge offensively.

Oregon probably has an advantage athletically and the Ducks are widely expected to press Duke to see if they can do what Yale did - namely to pressure a young team lacking a reliable primary  ballhandler.

Obviously for Duke there are critical concerns about fouls and fatigue. Matt Jones still has sore ankles. Duke has major vulnerabilities.

However, Duke presents Oregon with some challenges as well.

Marshall Plumlee is much, much thicker than Oregon's big men. Bell is 225 and 6-9. Plumlee is 7-1 and at least 250.

Boucher is 6-9 and weighs 190 - about the same as Brandon Ingram.

Differences can favor either guy in a matchup of course but Duke wins if it's a power game.

Oregon also has to match up with Ingram, and as we've seen all year, that's not an easy task for most people. Big guys don't like to chase him out to the perimeter and he can post smaller guys up inside. It's a tough matchup.

And like Ingram, Grayson Allen can shoot deep and take the ball in as well. It's not always obvious on TV just how athletic he truly is.

As we've also seen, freshman Luke Kennard at times can be very explosive offensively. If he's playing well that gives Duke another major scorer.

Jones, as we said above, has been dealing with not one but two injured ankles and his offense has just about disappeared. That's manageable, but his defense is really needed. He's fouled out of his last two games and against Yale, he would have been key on the court. He's experienced and smart. Duke needs his leadership.

There is one interesting wildcard for Duke: Derryck Thornton is playing near his hometown of Chatsworth, Calif. That could be good or bad emotionally. When Seth Curry played at Virginia Tech, where both of his parents attended, he played very poorly.

Who knows for Thornton? But it could be a positive.

There's another mild issue in this game that most Duke fans won't think of but we can guarantee you it's come up for the Ducks, and that's the famous theory of East Coast Bias.

There's some truth to it, but not as much as folks would like you to think.

The simple truth is that most people in this country live east of the Mississippi. Up until fairly recently, the PAC-12 had an idiotic TV deal which kept the league off the TV in the East. That's not the case anymore, but you have to stay up late to watch West Coast games or DVR them. Most people just watch the game that's on and go to bed. It's not necessarily bias.

But it's a real complaint out West and from that point of view, it's understandable. It's a psychological factor in this game, just as it was with St. Joe's when Phil Martelli said he hadn't seen much of Oregon. Well of course he hadn't. One team and the A-10 is a lot to keep up with.

This was somewhat reflected, inadvertently, buy the Oregonian. The paper had a column listing reasons why Duke would win, including this: "The Blue Devils start 6-9 Brandon Ingram and 7-0 center Marshall Plumlee. They can bring 6-9 forward Amile Jefferson and 6-10 Chase Jeter off the bench..."

Actually, it's even worse than that looks. It's not the Oregonian. It's an AP piece. That's pretty bad.

If by some chance you don't spot the problem, Jefferson has been out since December.

A better term than bias would be something like lack of awareness of every team in the country, only snappier.

It's a big country. There are a lot of teams. No one can know them all, not even guys like Dick Vitale or Jay Bilas.

Nonetheless, the theory fuels Western teams and players who tend to feel slighted by Easterners going to bed at midnight.

There is one other hidden factor in this game too - two really. Well, we've talked about it before and Duke fans likely understand this but not everyone does.

We're referring to Coach K's time management skills which are superb, and his equally impressive psychological insights.

Anyone who saw the Yale game understood the problem and there are no guarantees that Duke won't lose composure again.

While we talk about it though, Krzyzewski has long since analyzed it, made the best possible plan, communicated it to his players and put it into action.

Whatever he comes up with may or may not work, but a lot of work has been put in this week, time has been used very well and everyone has been brought in.

Which brings us to Dana Altman.

His move to Oregon was seen as a bit odd. He'd done well at Creighton, but in his second-to-last year he won 27 games and ended up in the NIT.

It's worked out great competitively. He won 21 games his first year and not less than 24 since.

There was significant controversy in Eugene after three players were accused of rape. One player, Brandon Austin, transferred to Oregon after a sexual allegation at his previous school, Providence.

After the allegations at Oregon surfaced, the D.A. declined to prosecute, saying that "[w]hile there is no doubt the incidents occurred, the conflicting statements and actions by the victim make this case unprovable."

If you're interested, here's the police report. It's not something you should read at work and it's disturbing.

All three were ultimately kicked off the team; Austin later filed suit against the school (the case was settled out of court for $800,00).

In the link above, the Oregonian says he was cleared at Providence.

So what to expect tonight? Well, it's tough to tell. Certainly Oregon is highly athletic. They're almost bound to press Duke.

But here's the thing: this year Duke's seen almost everything. Indiana was vastly more talented.  Duke won. UNC has a much more complete team than Duke. Duke split with the Heels. The Blue Devils also upset Virginia.

For what it's worth, Utah media has pointed to Duke's loss to Utah as a sign that Oregon may be better.

Then again, we saw that mention of Jefferson coming off the bench. It's an AP mistake, true, but come on, newspapers have copy editors.

Duke was still getting used to his absence when the Blue Devils played Utah and still only lost by two in overtime.

Things have changed since then.

Duke has a number of issues and concerns but one thing this team has never lacked is guts and that's largely because of the leadership of Plumlee, who has become a powerful force for Duke. He's the least talented of the Plumlee brothers, as we've said before, but the guy is relentless and he's infused his team with that quality. The Blue Devils won't go down without a fight.

Two final notes: first, Dana Altman bears a certain resemblance to actor Robert Patrick.

And second, Johnny Dawkins has seen enough from Stanford to give Duke a superb scouting report, assuming Duke chooses to use it. We don't know if Oregon will have a similar advantage.