Date 3/10 Time 7:00 PM || Venue Greensboro Coliseum || Video ESPN2
After a sensational win over Pitt Thursday, Duke will square off Friday evening against #1 seed Miami. As we’ve said already during this tournament, your chances of having two great games in a row are not good. So anyone who is expecting a repeat of Thursday’s triumph against Pitt is probably not going to happen.
Pitt is much more of a grind-it-out team than Miami. The Panthers can heat up from three point range, but really, Pitt would rather lay into you.
Miami, by contrast, is much more swashbuckling. They want to pick you off and run. They like to see Omier operate inside, but none of the other guys mind perimeter sniping and that’s where their advantages and strengths are anyway.
It’s not the first time that Jim Larranaga has had a smallish team that manages to outplay bigger teams. He’s done it for years. As a matter of fact, Miami was arguably the most compelling team in last year’s NCAA field. They were electrifying but, relatively speaking, small.
They were good in Durham earlier this season but great in Coral Gables. Miami laid waste to Duke and made that game a turning point. Duke was either going to buckle or grow. They chose to grow. And they really have grown dramatically, as we saw against Pitt.
This is a team with a lot of youth but it’s no longer young, certainly not like it was in December. Kyle Filipowski has been excellent all season, and Mark Mitchell has been quietly effective from Day One.
The other three starters - Dereck Lively, Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor - have all struggled for different reasons. For Lively and Roach, it was injuries and recovering. For Proctor, it was just getting in the groove and being comfortable.
Now Duke has a shotblocker/rebounder/inside scorer in Lively, a guy who can score and defend and step up when needed in captain Roach, and, apparently, something else again in Proctor.
He was very tentative early but in the last few games his confidence has shot up. And against Pitt, he was pretty sure he could toy with his defenders, and he was right. He did.
Proctor racked up 10 assists, shot 4-6 and made some highly, highly impressive passes. And also played excellent D, as Duke did collectively.
Pitt has had a solid year but the Panthers weren't a challenge for Duke. Miami is likely to be.
The ‘Canes have a tremendous perimeter in Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack and Jordan Miller, who seems to be rising to the occasion. Wooga Poplar is also turning into a fine player and Norchad Omier has established himself as a very good, if somewhat undersized, post presence.
We’re sure that Duke wants a crack at the team that trashed them in Coral Gables, but that team comes with some real challenges. It’s not going to be a cakewalk. Draft Kings has Duke by -2.5.
So by all means, enjoy Duke’s spectacular eruption against Pitt. But don’t expect it again.
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