Elite 8 showdown in Texas – BDN previews Duke vs Baylor

Photo courtesy Duke Blue Planet

HOUSTON - The Duke Blue Devils earned a berth in the NCAA's Elite 8 with a  huge second half effort against Purdue while Baylor had no trouble whatsoever disposing of St. Mary's.  The two teams will meet at 4:04 CST on Sunday and there is no reason to think this game will not go to the wire.

Baylor will be the home team here in that their fans have traveled as if it were a football game and they'll fill the Reliant Center in an effort to support their team.  FWIW, Baylor was 15-1 this season and 6-2 on neutral sites.

The Bears hold their opponents 65.3% from the field and allow 38% from the field, so like Duke, they are a solid defensive team.  That defense starts with 3rd team All American Ekpe Udoh, a player they nicknamed the "nightmare," in that he leads an extremely tall and athletic front line with 6-10 Anthony Jones and 7-0 cent Josh Lomers who has been playing his best ball of the season.

In short, the Bears average 7 blocks per game, but their offense is just as good.  The Bears average 77.1 ppg and the leader of the bunch is LaceDarius Dunn, second team all Big 12.  Dunn drops in 19.4 a game and he is capable of erupting, as is cat quick point guard Tweety Carter, who tosses in 15.1 ppg and leads the team in assists.

Baylor also has one of the best sixth men in the country in the athletic Quincy Acy, a 6-7 soph who had season highs in key games during Baylors run to the tournament.

Duke, on the other hand, plays good defense as well, but to win the game, Duke will have to be on their shot offensively.  They will also have to hit their free throws because Baylor is almost as good from the free throw line and the Bears are deadly from the stripe when the game is on the line and or crunch time.

Let's not forget that Baylor averages 7 three pointers per game, so Duke will need to run at them to push them off the stripe.  Duke will also face a zone defense where it is extremely hard to score inside.

As for rebounding, both teams are very good and Duke will not have the advantage they've enjoyed there during the season.  The bottom line is that Baylor is built to give a team like Duke fits.

A key for the Blue Devils will, of course, be Jon Scheyer who has struggled a bit with his shot of late.  However, Scheyer seemed poised to break out of the mini-slump after his second half performance vs Purdue.

Kyle Singler has been as steady as they come down the stretch and he will need to be dropping the three ball to open up the rest of his game offensively.  His teammate Nolan Smith is just as vital to Duke's efforts in that his defense against cat quick guards will be tested, and foul trouble could doom either team.

Brian Zoubek has been amazing this season, but he has struggled against athletic front courts offensively, yet his rebounding is a must in the contest.  Lance Thomas will have his hands full as well, but the senior seems poised for the challenge in that he was in game focus all day yesterday.

There has probably been no game this season that Duke will need the brothers Plumlee to play well.  Both Mason's and Miles' numbers will be called upon against a solid front court and they must establish themselves as forces inside or it could be a disappointing day for the Blue Devils.

In all honesty, Baylor scares me a bit and even Digger Phelps and Hubert Davis have picked them to advance, but when I know we have Coach K and a tight staff on the sidelines, I feel better.

I expect a pins and needles affair that will go down to the wire and I plan on seeing the team I follow cut down the nets and head back to Durham before leaving for Indianapolis, but again, it won't be easy.

This year's Duke team has had a great season, but one more win makes it a really great season.  Win or lose, these Blue Devils have achieved a lot and Duke fans need to recognize just how awesome this ride has been.

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Next up on premium - Quincy Miller interview

Desmond Scott

BDN Spring Football Game Recap

The Duke Blue Devils held their annual spring football game on Saturday in sunny Wallace Wade Stadium. The game featured the first-team offense (white) against the first-team defense (blue). The blue team emerged victorious with a convincing 24-3 victory, which showcased the team’s improved running game. Speed and youth were apparent on both teams, though neither offense managed to get into a rhythm through the air. The blue team was able to control the game on the ground and won the field position battle.

The blue team was led by freshman QB Brandon Connette, who finished the day 8/19 for 67 yards through the air and 91 yards on 13 carries on the ground. Sophomore RB Desmond Scott paced the blue offense on the ground, finishing with 97 yards on 13 carries. Redshirt freshman WR Tyree Watkins scored the game’s first touchdown on the blue team’s second possession in the first quarter when Connette found him open in the corner of the endzone. Redshirt sophomore RB Patrick Kurunwune and Connette each added a touchdown on the ground, and Paul Asack connected on a 24 yard field goal for the blue team.

The white team, led by redshirt freshman QB Sean Schroeder, struggled on the offensive side of the ball. The white team jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a first quarter field goal by senior K Nick Maggio, but were unable to put together a scoring drive again. Schroeder finished 4/20 for 23 yards. Freshman RB Josh Snead paced the white team rushing attack with 99 yards on 9 carries.

On defense, redshirt sophomore DE Kenny Anunike led the way with 9 tackles, including two for a loss. Sophomore LB Austin Gamble tallied 8 tackles, followed by 5 for junior S Matt Daniels and 4 for redshirt freshman LB Kevin Rojas. Despite a few shaky snaps and overthrown passes, the defense was unable to force any turnovers during the scrimmage.

At halftime, the spring practice awards were announced. The most improved players on offense were freshman QB Brandon Connette and redshirt freshman OT Perry Simmons. The most improved defensive player was redshirt freshman LB Kevin Rojas. The heart award went to junior S Jeff Faris.

Duke hosted over 160 prospects and their families on campus this weekend, who all took in the spring game and joined the team on the field for the post-game discussions.

Duke Assistant Chris Collins previews Baylor for BDN

Duke-Baylor preview
Coach Chris Collins flanks Mike Krzyzewski in Duke's win over Baylor. Collins previews Baylor for BDN. - Photo David Bradley, Duke Blue Planet

HOUSTON - Coach Krzyzewski is quick to tell you that his assistants, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, make up the scouting reports for future opponents, and it is no different with Baylor.  Both coaches checked out the Bears' easy win over St. Mary's last evening, and who better to talk to about the next opponent than Chris Collins himself?  BDN caught up with Coach Collins for a one on one chat about the game.

Just press play -

Kyle Singler talks of Baylor’s length

Singler ready for Baylor?
Kyle Singler now turns his attention the the Baylor Bears who stand in Duke's path to the Final Four - Photo courtesy of Duke Blue Planet

HOUSTON - Kyle Singler addresses the constant questions of expectations.  Kyle stated he would design another shirt if they get to the Final Four as well.  The Duke team watched film this morning and just finished up practice about thirty minutes ago.

Enjoy listening to Kyle Singler from Houston -

Nolan Smith – No time to celebrate for these Blue Devils

Smith drives on Purdue
Nolan Smith drives to the bucket against Purdue - Photo David Bradley, Duke Blue Planet (see their game galleries)

HOUSTON - Nolan Smith hit a key bucket going into half time in Duke's win over Purdue, and that momentum carried over into the second half.  Smith and the Blue Devils were joyous after the game, but it didn't take long for Krzyzewski to have them focus on Baylor.  Of course, with BDN, we want you to hear it from the horse's mouth, so enjoy yet another BDN audio clip from Houston, Texas where we will follow the Blue Devils every step of the way.

Jon Scheyer talks of the challenges of facing Baylor

Duke vs Baylor Kyle Singler Jon Scheyer
Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler address the media in Houston - Photo Duke Blue Planet

HOUSTON - Prep yourself for an information overload, for the Blue Devil Nation has several interviews coming your way from today's press conference and open locker room.  BDN takes you behind the scenes to bring you the best coverage on Duke Basketball available on any site.  Jon Scheyer talks about Baylor just before the team hit the practice court, and where they happen to be as I type.  Enjoy and check back often and join BDN Premium for full site access.  Next up - The three freshmen share their thoughts on being one game away from the Final Four.