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NCAA Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Robert Morris University Colonials

By March 20, 2015April 20th, 2015No Comments

Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (29-4] vs. Robert Morris University (RMU) Colonials (20-14]

Friday, March 20, 2015 • 7:10 p.m. • CBS • Charlotte, NC • Time Warner Cable Arena

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot


Duke faces Robert Morris Friday, March 20 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Tipoff is set for 7:10 PM with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson calling the action for CBS. The Blue Devils were tabbed the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Duke has received a No. 1 seed 13 times, second most in NCAA Tournament history. Duke is 99-34 (.744) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including an 82-26 (.759) mark under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils are one win shy of becoming the third program in NCAA history to record 100 tournament wins. Duke is making its 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the second-longest active streak in the NCAA. The Blue Devils have earned a No. 1 (11) or No. 2 (6) seed 17 times in that span. Duke is 32-6 (.842) in the state of North Carolina in NCAA Tournament play, including a 10-3 (.769) mark in Charlotte. The Blue Devils enter Friday’s game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 75-15 overall when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll.


Robert Morris University

The Robert Morris University men’s basketball team advances to the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament Friday, March 20, with a 7:10 PM contest against No. 1 seed Duke as part of the South Region at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC. RMU earned its first victory in the NCAA Tournament since 1983 and second overall in school history by earning an 81-77 win over North Florida on Wednesday in the First Four at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio. Robert Morris enters the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament riding a season-high seven-game winning streak. During the surge, the Colonials are averaging 77.4 points per contest while shooting 46.8 percent (190-for-406) from the field, including 43.2 percent (60-for-139) from beyond the arc. In their only other NCAA Tournament win, the Colonials posted a 64-54 victory over Georgia Southern on March 15 in the play-in game, which also came at UD Arena, as part of the 1983 NCAA Tournament. Robert Morris is making its eighth appearance in the NCAA Tournament after claiming its eighth Northeast Conference Tournament championship with a 66-63 victory at No. 1 St. Francis Brooklyn on March 10.


2. Last Time Out


In its last outing, Duke fell to Notre Dame, 74-64, in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament as the Blue Devils shot a season-low 17.8 percent (3-of-17) from three-point range. Jahlil Okafor scored a game-high 28 points on 13-of-18 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Justise Winslow notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Tyus Jones added 10 points, four rebounds and five assists. Duke shot just 50.0 percent (7-of-14) from the foul line, while Notre Dame was 22-of-25 (.880) from the charity stripe in the contest. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones combined to go 6-of-25 (.240) from the field and 2-of-13 (.154) from three-point range in the loss.


Game Notes

  • The last time Duke started the season 29-4 was 2010.
  • Prior to this game, Duke played 52 Top 25 opponents in the last five seasons with a record of 36-16.
  • Duke set season lows for assists (10), three-pointers (3), and three-point percentage (17.6).
  • Jahlil Okafor accounted for 43.7 percent of the team’s points.
    • Has led the team in scoring in 13 out of 33 games this season.
    • This marks the 12th 20-point game of his career.
    • Has three straight double-digit point games.
  • Justise Winslow accounted for 32.3 percent of the team’s rebounds.
    • Has led the team in rebounding in nine out of 33 games this season.
    • Recorded the fifth double-digit rebound game of his career.
    • Has 14 straight double-digit point games.
    • Recorded a double-double. It was the fifth of his career


Robert Morris University

In its last outing, senior guard Lucky Jones paced the Colonials in their win over the North Florida Ospreys with 21 points and seven rebounds while tying a career high with five steals. Junior guard Rodney Pryor added 20 points, freshman guard Marcquise Reed scored 19 and freshman forward Elijah Minnie registered his third double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.


Game Notes

  • The win over Northern Florida extended the Robert Morris winning streak to eight games.
  • The Colonials have won seven close games this season (a win by five or fewer points). Since 2009, Robert Morris is 47-24 in close games.
  • The Colonials have won every game this season (5-0) after recording 13 or more steals.
  • Robert Morris has won 75 percent of the time this season (6-2) when its three-point percentage has been 50.0 percent or better.
  • RMU has won every game this season (8-0) when opponents record nine or fewer free throws made.
  • RMU has won 88 percent of the time this season (7-1) after holding an opponent to under 38.3 percent field goal percentage.
  • This season Robert Morris has won 85 percent of the time (11-2) when Rodney Pryor has 17 points or more, 80 percent of the time (4-1) when Elijah Minnie has nine rebounds or more, and 86 percent of the time (6-1) when Kavon Stewart has three steals or more.
  • The top two scorers (Rodney Pryor and Elijah Minnie) accounted for 46.9 percent of the points.


3. Head-to-Head

This is the first meeting between the teams.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke has the edge in all of the categories except steals per game, which give the Blue Devils a solid statistical edge head-to-head.


Duke 2014-15 Regular Season Key Stats Comparison Robert Morris University
80.6 (+15.0) PPG (Scoring Margin) 69.4 (+1.4)
65.6 Opponents PPG 68.0
56.9 Effective FG% 50.4
50.2 FG% 44.6
42.9 Opponent FG% 42.6
38.6 3PT FG% 37.7
32.0 Opponent 3PT FG% 33.7
37.3 (+6.2) RPG (Rebound Margin) 33.5 (-2.6)
31.1 Opponent RPG 35.9
15.5 APG 12.2
7.2 SPG 8.6
11.2 (+1.3) Turnovers Per Game (Margin) 13.5 (.8)
12.6 Opponent TOPG 14.7
3.8 BPG 2.9


4. Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,]

Duke-RMU 4Fs


Duke has a huge edge over Robert Morris University in all factors. The edge in offensive rebounding is 37.4% vs. 31.1%. When it comes to getting to the free throw line, Duke’s edge is 40.2% vs. 36.6%. Duke is shooting the ball more efficiently (eFG%) at 56.9% vs. 50.4% and handling the ball better (16.8% vs. 17.1%).

5. Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both teams’ overall profile at this point:


  • Two main scorers (Cook/Okafor); Jones/Winslow close behind
  • Commits few fouls
  • Highly efficient attack

Robert Morris University

  • Three main scorers (Jones/Pryor/Reed)

Now, a few key points to consider. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Free Throw Shooting (Emphasis on Okafor)
    • This has been Duke’s Achilles Tendon at times this year. Unfortunately, Okafor can be a huge detriment here.
    • With Duke down four points with less than two minutes left against Notre Dame in the ACC tournament, Okafor stepped to the line. Duke had fought the entire second half to make up for a poor start, and now Okafor had a chance to cut the lead to a single possession.
    • He promptly clanged both freebies, and Pat Connaughton put the game away with a jumper on the other end.
    • Over his last seven games, Okafor is just 9-of-34 from the charity stripe—that is 26 percent! If he does not right his wrongs at the line, his shooting woes could ultimately doom Duke’s season.
    • College teams are unlikely to go to a true Hack-a-Shaq strategy against Okafor with each player only allowed five fouls and limited depth on college rosters, but his shooting woes could still spell big trouble.
    • All of his misses leave Duke with nothing to show for possessions in which it worked hard to get him the ball. He also could become passive late in games if he is worried about going to the line.
    • Okafor will need to prove he can hit at a respectable rate from the line if Duke is to threaten for the national title.
  • In The Flow
    • Robert Morris should be in tournament mode, at least. The Northeast Conference champion Colonials rallied from 13 down in the second half to beat North Florida 81-77 in the First Four on Wednesday night, earning the program’s first NCAA win since 1983 and their second overall.
    • ”We’re going to try to use the experience of already playing in one and getting all the jitters out of the way and stuff like that,” junior Rodney Pryor said, ”so I think that’s good for us.”
  • Duke’s Health
    • The Blue Devils do not enter this one at 100 percent even with a week off since an ACC Tournament semifinal loss to Notre Dame.
    • Coach Mike Krzyzewski said freshman reserve guard Grayson Allen has been sick all week, while Okafor continues to play through an ankle injury suffered last month against rival North Carolina.
  • Defending Okafor
    • How will Robert Morris defend Okafor inside?
    • Colonials starting center Elijah Minnie gives away three inches and about 55 pounds to Okafor, who has also had plenty of practice passing out to shooters against double teams all season.
  • Scoring Balance
    • The Colonials have offensive balance with Pryor (15.4 points), Marcquise Reed (14.9), and Lucky Jones (14.5).
    • Pryor and Reed are both shooting at least 41 percent from 3-point range, too.
    • They are facing a Duke team that has had some defensive struggles this year, most notably against dribble penetration.
  • Miracle?
    • Every year, the stat is repeated: no No. 16 has ever beaten a No. 1 in the NCAAs.
    • That could mean the Colonials come out loose and relaxed with a nothing-to-lose approach. On the other hand, they could feel awed by the moment.
    • Even Toole does not quite know how they will respond. ”Hopefully with (the first game) being done already, we’ll be able to kind of settle in as soon as the game starts,” Toole said. ”Obviously the opponent is a little bit different and the stage is a little bit different.”

6. Endgame

Tonight in Charlotte, North Carolina, the 16th-seeded Robert Morris Colonials (20-14, 12-6) will take on the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils (29-4, 15-3). With the Colonials coming off of two nail biting wins in the last week, they will look to challenge one of the upper echelon teams in the NCAA.

If Robert Morris wants to make this a contest, they must start by challenging a Duke team that has great interior offense and defense. Duke’s freshman center Jahlil Okafor has been the biggest contributor both defensively and offensively for the Blue Devils, with Okafor averaging 17.7 points per game, nine rebounds and has 567 points over 32 games, which leads the team.

Along with Okafor, three other Blue Devils are averaging double-digit points: senior guard Quinn Cook (15.7), freshman forward Justise Winslow (12.3) and freshman guard Tyus Jones (11.6). Robert Morris will have to play at the highest level that it has played at the entire year in order to keep up with a fast paced offense and a ball-hawking defense.

With Robert Morris lacking size, it will need to make sure to take advantage of each and every possession. This will mean that the players that were able to outlast North Florida – senior guard Lucky Jones, junior guard Rodney Pryor and freshman Marcquise Reed – will need to put up good numbers and be very efficient. With all three scoring a combined 60 points in an 81-77 victory over North Florida, it is clear that they are the key if Robert Morris has any shot in upsetting Duke.

While one seeds are undefeated against 16 seeds in the NCAA tournament (120-0), Duke has experienced disappointment as a high seed in the last few years. Seeded third last year, Duke lost 71-78 to the 14th-seeded Mercer Bears. In 2012, the second-seeded Blue Devils also lost to the 15th-seeded Leigh Mountain Hawks, 70-75.

Not to say that the Blue Devils are likely to lose, but Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has not had a fully prepared team against lower seeded teams in the last few years.

Robert Morris is a team that could prove to be difficult for Duke, but, with their lack of height and ability to play the boards well, their chances of winning are no better than past 16 seeded teams. There are positives for the Colonials. Defensively, they make their opponents turnover the ball often and are able to generate points off of the mistakes.

In the end, expect Duke to come out aggressive against Robert Morris. Watch for Okafor to posses the ball significantly under the hoop both offensively and defensively. Robert Morris will use the perimeter to their advantage in trying to spread out the court and find good shots from three-point range. With the Colonials lacking in size and the Blue Devils using Okafor and strong physical play to their advantage, Duke will advance over Robert Morris, 83-67.

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