When: March 15 | 2:45 PM (ET)
Where: PPG Paints Arena -Pittsburgh, PA
Watch Live: CBS
The Duke Blue Devils travel to Pittsburgh for a Thursday square off with the Iona Gaels, winners of the MAAC Conference. The Gaels enter the tournament as a 15 seed and boast a record of 20-13.
Iona is led in scoring by Rickey McGill, a 6'1 junior guard averaging 13.5 points and 5.6 assists a game. The Gaels' leading rebounder is 6'8 Tarekyi Edogi who averages 7.1 boards a game to go with 8.6 points. Iona has 7 players averaging over 23 minutes a game and 5 who score in double figures. A high scoring team, the Gaels average just under 80 points a game and are an adept 3 point shooting team averaging 39% on the season which is 31st in the NCAA; they are also a top 50 rebounding team as well. Duke will have to turn the Gaels into a 2 point shooting team and limit their second chance opportunities.
Limiting 2nd chance points will be huge for Duke as Carolina, Duke's last opponent, was able to capitalize on long rebounds and recycle possessions. Duke for the most part has rebounded well out of the zone but UNC exposed weaknesses in that zone that Duke will have to account for or at least lessen the impact of. Slow starts, in and of themselves, are zone killers. Duke is generally being ok with trading buckets as long as they are 2 point buckets the game against UNC in the ACC Tournament showed the difficulties Duke can face having to play from behind. Struggling on the offensive end lessened the effectiveness of the zone and puts pressure on the offense which for Duke has seemed to have fits and starts when it comes to efficiency.
Duke will be facing one of, if not, the oldest team in the tournament and with a team as young as these Blue Devils are, the hope is that getting a taste of the ACC Tournament has given them some added insight into the kind of atmosphere the NCAA Tournament is known for. Duke bigs had trouble finishing plays at the rim and occasionally were not strong with the ball their last time out. The NCAA Tournament is an unforgiving animal and there is very little room for finesse. The physicality is at a much higher level, there is an increased intensity and execution is a must. Another issue for Duke has been turnovers. If Duke continues to not value the basketball and make the most out of their possessions then this will be a short trip. Duke can ill afford to average double-digit turnovers in the NCAA Tournament. Guard play is crucial and Duke has had instances of really bad decision-making by their starting guards. Maintaining movement on offense is also a must, if Duke employs the pass to the post and stand and watch approach they make the game very easy for the defense. Duke guards need to continually move, relocate and make it much harder for defenses to sag and double team - to that end, Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. have to be much stronger on the catch and more decisive with their initial post moves. They also must be aware that if the double team comes to make a good, strong pass out to the guards. This should be an interesting game for Duke as Iona is a strong team. It took a career high from Tyus Battle to lift Syracuse past a strong Iona team by 9 points. They also shot 50% from the field and 41% from 3 point range against a strong Rhode Island team losing by 6 points.
The game once again, for the Blue Devils, revolves around execution of basic basketball principles:
- Take care of the basketball
- Box out and rebound the basketball
- Take away the 3-point shot
- Play physical and finish strong
- The Duke Blue Devils hold the No. 2-seed in the Midwest Region and open play in the program’s 42nd NCAA Tournament on Thursday versus Iona in the first round.
- The Blue Devils are in the NCAA Tournament for the 23rd consecutive season, which is topped by only Kansas’ current streak of 29 consecutive appearances.
- Duke is 108-36 (.750) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, which is No. 1 all-time in winning percentage and third in wins.
- Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has led Duke to the NCAA Tournament for the 34th time, a record number of bids by a coach. Coach K’s 91 tournament wins are also the most.
- Iona enters with a 20-13 record and are the No. 15-seed in the Midwest Region after winning the MAAC tournament championship. It is the third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for the Gaels and the fifth in the past seven years.
- Iona has five different players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Rickey McGill at 13.5. The Gaels led the MAAC in three-point field goals made, averaging 9.7.
- It will be the first meeting between Duke and Iona as well as the first time Duke faces a MAAC opponent in the postseason.
Projected Starting Lineups:
F Marvin Bagley III
F Wendell Carter Jr.
G Gary Trent Jr.
G Grayson Allen
G Trevon Duval
F Tarekeyi Edogi
F E.J. Crawford
G Zach Lewis
G Schadrac Casimir
G Rickey McGill