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2018 NCAA Tournament - Next Up: Rhode Island

Time: 2:40 || Venue: PPG Paints Arena || TV: CBS

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Iona v Duke
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Trevon Duval #1 of the Duke Blue Devils controls the ball against Roland Griffin #11 of the Iona Gaels during the game in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It quickly became clear that this game was going to be different when Bobby Hurley announced, for what we’re pretty sure is the first time, that he’s pulling against Duke.

How could he not?

He’s very close with his brother Danny and Dan is coaching Rhode Island against Duke Saturday afternoon.

Anyone who saw Danny’s reaction to Bobby’s ASU team making the field has some idea of the bond between these brothers. It’s intense.

Those of you who were lucky enough to see the 1992 team will remember that Duke played Seton Hall in the 1992 team which pitted Duke, with Bobby, against Seton Hall, with Danny.

As much as he loves his brother, following a legend has been hard. Danny was constantly compared to Bobby and for a while at Seton Hall had to step away from the game. He wasn’t as good a player as Bobby was and the pressure on him was relentless.

So for the Rhode Island Hurley, playing Duke Saturday may be a lot of things: cathartic, a huge opportunity for his team and his own career and, perhaps in a sense, a kind of payback. Duke never did anything to him personally of course, but it’s always been there via Bobby with his two national titles, his NCAA assist record and his legacy as perhaps the finest point guard the NCAA has ever seen. If Duke was a blessing for Bobby, was it a burden for his brother?

Only he could answer that and he lives in coach speak now so we’ll never know.

There was a recent article on him over at CBS Sports which discussed the difficulty he’s had regulating his emotions.

It’s a family trait: his brother and his very famous dad, Bob Hurley Sr., are both just as volcanic. Danny has worked hard to control his and the president of ASU has suggested that it’s something Bobby needs to work on as well.

It’s not that the Hurleys are loose cannons or anything. It’s just that they are all passionate men, all incredibly competitive.

And Rhode Island greatly reflects its coach. The Rams don’t quit. We saw that against Oklahoma and Trae Young. Rhody defended Young very well for part of the game but later on he got going and hurt them.

Didn’t matter.

Didn’t matter that Rhode Island was smaller either because it’s a Hurley coached team and you can say this for St. Anthony’s, where Bob Sr. coached, Arizona State or Rhode Island: you’re going to have to bring it to outwork a Hurley team.

That’ll be true Saturday as well.

Duke will have Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter inside and that’s two tough matchups for the Rams.

Duke’s guards - 6-5 Grayson Allen, 6-6 Gary Trent and 6-1 Trevon Duval - are nearly as tall as some of the frontcourt Rams.

And Duke is, as we’ve seen, deeply talented.

Basically what we expect to see is this: Rhode Island is going to try to sock Duke in the mouth (metaphorically), is going to try to force them into a loose, scrambling game. If Duke falls for it, it could be a long night. Rhode Island reminds us, a lot, of the old Big East with all its macho swagger.

But if Duke exploits its advantages, it could be a long night for the Rams too. The key will be this: Duke has to match Rhode Island’s Hurley-fueled intensity. With four freshmen, it won’t be easy.

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