Duke seniors discuss Elite Eight loss to Louisville

SONY DSCWell, the Duke season didn't end the way the fans or team wanted as they went down to Louisville by a score of 85-63, but that's the way it goes sometimes.  It is important to remember this team finished the season 30-6 and took care of business sweeping their arch rival so no reason for heads to hang.  One of the most difficult things for me is to go into the locker room this time of year for there is nothing but sad faces, but it's a part of the job.  Here are videos with the three seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly who led Duke to 124 victories and they should be remembered fondly for that.

Last minute thoughts from Indy

SONY DSCIt's time for my last-minute thoughts on today's Duke vs Louisville match up to see which team moves on to the coveted Final Four.

Road Blue and the underdog

Duke will wear their royal Duke Blue uniforms today and find themselves a rare 4 point underdog to Louisville. But that line makes sense in that this will be a pro Louisville crowd. It's less than a two hours drive for their fans and they've been known to travel. Indiana fans had originally purchased tickets here but got knocked out by the Cards in that this was the closest venue to them. Louisville fans have been gobbling up the tickets available in the local paper and everywhere you go you see red.

Louisville comes in a roll

The Cards are riding a 13 game winning streak and the only game they lost prior to that in the last was against Notre Dame in five overtimes. They are a confident bunch, playing loose. Some may point to a three game losing streak prior to the streak but how many teams would succeed against Syracuse and road games against Villanova and Georgetown? The Cards have no bad losses and stand 32-5 against a tough Big East schedule.

Could revenge play a factor?

Of course it could. It's hard to beat a good team twice and Duke holds a 76-71 win earlier this season. Their fan base certainly seems to want some revenge but the Louisville players downplayed the game, one saying "Duke," on the chest in no way scares them.

The keys for Duke

Much has been made of Ryan Kelly and his recent inability to knock down the three ball. The Cards could sag on Mason Plumlee until he hits one in this game. Then there is the Curry factor. In a 24 hour turnaround he averages 21 ppg in the 1st game and 13 ppg in the 2nd game with a significant drop off in shooting percentage. That means Quinn Cook will need to bounce back from his lack luster game against Michigan State and Rasheed Sulaimon cannot afford a drop off. Duke must also stay out of foul trouble and hope the refs do not give into what will essentially b a home crowd for Louisville. Duke made up for shooting 40% from the field by hitting 24-26 free throws against the Spartans. It will be hard to repeat that but it favors duke if they can once again get to the line. And for those whining about Duke gets all the calls, they shot a grand total of two more free throws in the win over Michigan State.

What it comes down to

Duke will need to come out of the gate strong and take the initial one, two punch Louisville will throw their way. Duke must protect their key players from foul trouble and make an effort too have a man back due to the Cards ability to easily get into the lane.Duke also needs to find and push their three-point shooters off the line. They did a good job with that against Luke Hancock in the first game. Louisville gains the services of Gorgui Dieng in this game, who is a presence at 6-11, 245 and he missed he first game allowing Duke to score some easier inside buckets.

The pick

This game is going to go down to the wire and fans can expect their nerves to be frazzled. If the Blue Devils can cut off the Louisville break and not allow easy points it benefits them greatly. Th Cards want to run, Duke may surprise some and do so as well but you can expect to see some good defense and I think this game struggles to get into the seventies as the first game did. Kelly finds his shot and allows Duke to stretch the floor and Coach K and company claw their way to a 67-66 win to advance to Atlanta.

Duke Basketball – Notes from Indy

SONY DSCThe Duke Blue Devils advanced to the Elite Eight where they will take on Louisville for a chance to go to the Final Four. BDN takes a look at the frenetic pace of events in Indy as we continue our coverage.

A good win over Michigan State

A lot of people were worried about this game and for good reason in that Tom Izzo and the Spartans are always good, but the Blue Devils seized the opportunity at hand pulling out a 71-61 win. On a night when Quinn Cook struggled, Tyler Thonrton played well off the bench and Seth Curry was quite simply the best player on the court by evenings end. Curry of course, dropped 29 points to lead all scorers and he got help from fellow seniors Ryan Kelly who scored 9 points to go with his team high 7 rebounds. Actually, Mason Plumlee tied him for the lead in rebounds with 7 of his own and scored 14 points himself.  It is also worth noting that Kelly was also the games leader in blocked shots with 4 rejections. Rasheed Sulaimon tallied 16 points as well, knocking down 12 of 16 free throws. As a team, Duke went a more than acceptable 24-26 from the free throw stripe as well. And then there is the defense which you have probably read about by now, but if not is was stellar and should the level of play continue, Duke will be a tough out.

SONY DSCNo time to reflect

In talking to the Duke players during  the press conference here in Indy and what they call break out rooms where they speak individually with members of the media, it was clear they were tired due to the late end of the game.   Some members of the team had to take mandatory drug tests late last evening and the other players while they did not have to, waited for their teammates, putting them in their rooms about 2:00 in the morning. Krzyzewski and others saw this as being ridiculous in nature for many reasons. The team had to be back at Lucas Oil Arena by noon today for the aforementioned interviews and according to many of them, it took some time to wind down from the  Michigan State game they had just won. It was impossible for them not to think about that with the dreaded overkill thoughts before bedding down for the evening and to make matters worse, Louisville had to be on their minds as well. While these are indeed young men that can run circles around me, the responsibilities they have which are demanding in nature go unnoticed by fans. But the media knows, for they are on the same schedule with dead lines and in my case it was around 2:48 before I left the arena. Anyhow, Krzyzewski mentioned this as he should, hoping the NCAA will do a study on the situation. There was no reason why today's pressers could not be pushed back at least until say, 2:00. Another thing worth mentioning is that the coaching staff gets very little sleep if any, breaking down film and preparing for the job at hand in order to advance.  How tired were Coach K's Devils?  Tired enough to only conduct a simple walk through practice today.

SONY DSCThe Final Four Regional

Again, I have dubbed this the Final Four regional in that this region is and or was,  flat out loaded. For the record, Duke and Louisville are the top two seeds left in the entire tournament and many feel the game tomorrow could in a sense be the national title game. It's almost a crime that these two-storied and strong programs could not meet for all the marbles. I mean it is Pitino vs Krzyzewski for gosh sakes and both teams are playing great basketball.  Some feel the winner of this game could actually get a break when they hit the Final Four and I would not argue against that and actually agree with the analogy.

Keep in mind ...

Keep in mind that we'll see these two programs going head to head in the future when Louisville joins the ACC. In that vein, this is an all ACC match up in slightly skewed way. The one thing I noticed when talking to both teams players was the fact that I saw a lot of character. Covering the Duke program up close and personal over the years and even the AAU trail and the kids who eventually go to school in Durham, the one thing I can say with 100% objectivity, is that the Blue Devils players all have immense character in that they are all great kids and citizens on and off the court.

SONY DSCNobody better than Coach K in Elite Eight play

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is 11-1 in Elite Eight play which is an amazing record. Blue Devil faithful are lucky to have him at the helm and who the heck else would you want in this situation? But the fan base should be grateful win or lose tomorrow and not take for granted how hard it is to advance in these tournaments. Remind yourself how it felt to go out last season against Lehigh in order to enjoy the accomplishments which are earned with hard work that starts the very next day the season ends. It's a long process and the season will be full of ebbs and flows but the last team standing will always be the happiest. Duke is one victory away from going to another Final Four which would be the eleventh for Coach K and company, one shy of John Wooden at UCLA.

30 wins, again

Duke won its 30th game of the season and while no fan wants it to end, that in itself is a dream for any school. It's the 13th time in history Krzyzewski has won 30 games at Duke. In fact, he is the only coach to win 30 in Durham and he has more 30 win seasons than any other coach in the long history of college basketball.

SONY DSCDuke just doesn't have it ... Duke will win it all

It amazes me how wrong the talking heads can be with their predictions as the year goes along and their flipping and flopping is akin to being manic. Going into last evenings game, BDN picked the Devils to win and we did so confidently. Maybe it comes from being around since the dawn of the K era for me or maybe it was just luck. Anyhow, Duke is starting to get some favorable press again. After the Maryland loss, everybody assumed a single game performance meant that Duke would continue to play like that and the ship was destined to sink. Maybe those NBA types will start to do their homework a bit more going forward. After all, it is not like anyone invited them to invade their living room trying to pose as college hoops experts.

Sidebar - Duke is 26-8 all time as a no. 2 seed. Duke is playing in their 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament which is the longest such streak of any program. Did you know there were seven couch fires in East Lansing, Michigan last night?  Seth Curry knocked down six three pointers, a new Lucas oil Arena record and his is 29 points were the second most scored in the arena.  Duke's free throw percentage last evening was the highest in their NCAA tournament history.  Cook moved to 19th on the all time Duke assist list.

Stick around, for a lot more is coming from Indy.

Thorntons’ defense huge in Duke win

SONY DSCINDIANAPOLIS - When Tyler Thornton came off the bench for Duke he knocked down a three pointer in short order.  As it turned out, the only points Thornton would score but his defensive play was crucial in the Blue Devils 71-61 win over Michigan State.  Thornton had two steals and he played a solid floor game in his 26 minutes.  While he was no the star of the game, his play was critical in helping Duke advance to play Louisville in the Elite Eight.