Welcome to the greatest month in college basketball: March.
The 2018 NCAA Tournament has officially started, and it has not disappointed so far. Just one day full day of action was filled with upsets, clutch shots and exciting overtime games.
With some second-round matchups already set, let’s preview and predict the Round of 32 game between the 27-7 Duke Blue Devils and the 26-7 Rhode Island Rams.
The No. 2 seed Blue Devils will face off against the No. 7 seed Rams in the second round of the Midwest region Saturday.
On Thursday, Duke easily dispatched the 15 seed Iona Gaels while the Rams beat Trae Young and 10 seed Oklahoma in a hard-fought overtime game.
The Rams and Blue Devils, however, are quite literally opposites when it comes to team composition.
The Blue Devils are built like most modern blue-blood programs: Multiple talented freshman and few, or even zero, upper classman. Duke is led by its lone senior guard Grayson Allen, alongside Naismith Award finalists Marvin Bagley III as well as other talented freshmen Wendell Carter, Jr. and Gary Trent, Jr.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has led the Blue Devils to 20 plus consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, one of the longest streaks among teams.
Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley, younger brother of former Duke guard and current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, had led the Rams to two straight tournament appearances and first-round wins.
Bobby Hurley, who won back-to-back national championships under Coach K in the early 90s, will be rooting for the Rams and his brother on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
Duke 78- Rhode Island 67.
Much like Duke’s first round opponent, Rhode Island does not have any height. The tallest Rhode Island player to see action against Oklahoma is only 6 feet 8 inches tall. Against past Duke teams, smaller and guard oriented, lack of height wouldn’t be a big issue but this year’s Duke team is a different story.
With two of the best big men in the country in Bagley and Carter, who are both near 7 feet tall, Duke feverishly passes the ball into the post. Against a smaller Iona, the Duke big men dominated the glass and in the paint.
Duke is ranked sixth in the country for offensive rebounds, averaging 12 per contest, according to teamrankings.com.
Expect Bagley, Carter and back-up center Marques Bolden to take advantage of Rhode Island’s lack of height on offense and defense.
If Dan Hurley and his team want a chance at the Sweet 16, Rhode Island must play suffocating defense on Duke’s guards and not let the Blue Devil’s front-court dominate in the paint and on the offensive glass.
Tip-off is set for approximately 2:40 p.m. EST Saturday.