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Preview: #4 Duke Blue Devils (26-8) vs. #1 Houston Cougars (32-4)

NCAA Tournament Second Round

Friday, March 29 • 9:39 p.m. ET
American Airlines Center (20,000) • Dallas, TX

The No. 4 seed Duke Blue Devils are set to face No. 1 seed Houston Cougars in the South Region of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament’s third round.

Broadcast Info

TV/Video Stream CBS
Play-by-Play Ian Eagle
Analyst Bill Raftery
Analyst Grant Hill
Sideline Tracy Wolfson
Producer Mark Wolff

Radio Blue Devil Sports Net.
PxP/Color David Shumate/John Roth
In Durham 96.5 FM & 620 AM

Westwood One
PxP/Color Ryan Radtke/PJ Carlisemo
SiriusXM 201 & 208

The Teams

Houston Cougars

The 32-4 Houston Cougars enter the Regional Semifinal final game with an impressive record on the season of 32-4 finishing first in the Big 12 and earning a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars program has only lost only 18 games in 4 the last 4 seasons and are 7th in the country in steals, 11th in offensive rebounding and top 30 in blocked shots. Houston leads the nation in scoring defense (57.7 ppg), turnover margin (7.0) and field goal percentage defense (37.8%)

They boast 3 players in double-figures led by LJ Cryer at 15.5 points a game. Jamal Shead leads the Cougars in steals at 2.2 per game and assists per game at 6.4. Shead also scores it at 13.2 points per game – Shead is the Big 12 Player of the Year, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and consensus First-Team All-America honoree. Guard Emanuel Sharp rounds out the double-figure scorers for the Cougars at 12.8 per game, Sharp shoots the ball from beyond the arc at 37% on the season. Forward J’Wan Roberts is the leading rebounder at 6.8 per game for the Cougars.

The Cougars defeated Longwood in the first round and followed that up with an overtime victory against Texas A&M.

Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devils enter this regional semifinal with a combined record of 26-8 good for second in the ACC. The Blue Devils earned a trip to the regional semifinals by beating Vermont in their first round game 64-47, followed by a victory against James Madison 93-55. The Blue Devils are among the nation’s top 25 in scoring margin (+13.3), field goal percentage (.482), 3-point field goal percentage (.381) and assist/turnover ratio (1.61). The Blue Devils are among the nation’s top 25 in scoring margin (+13.3), field goal percentage (.482), 3-point field goal percentage (.381) and assist/turnover ratio (1.61).

Kyle Filipowski leads the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding and ranks 10th in scoring (16.6 ppg), sixth in rebounding (8.2 rpg), third in blocked shots (1.6 bpg) and sixth in field goal percentage (.515) in the ACC. Tyrese Proctor ranks second in ACC in assist/turnover ratio (2.84), and has 37 assists with just 10 turnovers in his last nine outings. Proctor scores the basketball at a rate of 10.9 points per game.

Jared McCain broke Duke’s NCAA Tournament record with eight 3-pointers in a second-round victory over James Madison in Brooklyn, New York (March 24). McCain averages 14 points per game and is shooting the 3-ball at 41.5%. Jeremy Roach is tied with McCain at 14 points per game and is kicking in 3.3 assists per contest for the Blue Devils. Sophomore forward Mark Mitchell rounds out the double-figure scoring at 12.1 per game.

Duke in the tourney

Duke is making its 46th appearance in the NCAA Tournament – fifth most in NCAA history – and 29th trip to the Sweet 16 – first under second-year head coach Jon Scheyer. In the past 25 NCAA Tournaments, Duke has advanced to the Sweet 16 in 19 of them. Scheyer leads Duke into the tournament for the second straight season and has steered the Blue Devils to a top-five seed in each of his first two campaigns. Duke has been ranked inside the top-25 for the entirety of the 2023-24 season and achieved 25 victories for the 16th consecutive season (not impacted by COVID-19). Duke is 121-40 (.752) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, marking the best winning percentage in tournament history by a team with a minimum of 20 games played.

Stats Comparison

Duke 34 40.0 28.4 58.9 .482 19.9 36.8 .542 8.4 22.2 .381 14.6 20.2 .721 10.5 26.1 36.6 15.5 6.7 3.7 9.6 15.7 79.8
Houston 36 40.4 26.7 60.7 .440 18.8 38.1 .494 7.9 22.6 .349 12.9 18.6 .691 13.5 23.8 37.3 13.2 9.9 4.8 8.9 17.9 74.1

Projected Lineup

Duke Blue Devils

G Jeremy Roach 6’2, 180lbs SR
G Jared McCain 6’3, 197lbs FR
G Tyrese Proctor 6’5, 183lbs SO
F Mark Mitchell  6’9, 232lbs SO
C Kyle Filipowski 7’0, 248lbs SO

Houston Cougars

G L.J. Cryer 6’1, 200lbs SR
G Jamal Shead 6’1, 200lbs SR
G Emanuel Sharp 6’3, 205lbs RSSO
F J’Wan Roberts 6’7, 235lbs RSSR
F Ja’Vier Francis 6’8, 240lbs JR


There’s no secret to beating this Houston squad but what we do know is it’s going to take a near perfect game from the Blue Devils and it all begins with toughness. Houston has a reputation for being one of the toughest teams in the NCAA and they’ve earned that title year in and year out. They are a guard oriented team and Duke’s guards are going to have to do some things they aren’t used to doing – rebounding. The Cougars live on the offensive glass and giving up second chance points to them is the death knell. LJ Cryer and Jamal Shead are as good as it gets at the guard position and they can beat you from beyond the 3-point line or they can carve you up in space. Duke defensively has to have an answer for what happens if the guards are beaten. If the Blue Devils can stay in front of the Houston guards – they have a good chance of shutting them down but that’s no easy task and not something Duke has been able to do effectively all season. So Duke’s defense is going to have to collapse and recover – it will be interesting to see what happens then. It can lead to open 3’s or dunks with a Duke big rotating over to cover the driver. Not sure how Duke accounts for this. I think if Duke can make Houston play against a set defense most times down the court it will be a good thing.

Houston does a terrific job of making the extra pass, Duke will need to be on their toes literally, getting caught unaware is an open 3, and on the perimeter – which may be the most important area for Duke to guard (aside from in transition) they must close under control, relocation and side-step 3’s are some of the easiest shots for good guards nowadays and if you don’t close under control you are taking yourself out of the play or worse fouling a shooter.

Offensively, the Blue Devils have to hit shots – it’s that simple, well it’s not really that simple. Houston is going to look to smother Duke. They recover well and they guard with ferocity. If Duke can get fast break opportunities then take them, play against Houston’s set defense as little as possible. Run when you have the change, run on makes and misses if you can. There could be some opportunities for secondary break three pointers if Duke can get some run outs and their guards fan out as they should. What cannot happen is driving aimlessly into traffic – something Duke does more than they should. There should be a plethora of mid-range shots open for the Blue Devils if they are willing to take advantage.