NCAA hoops: South Region analysis: Top-seeded Duke seeks redemption
By Blair Kerkhoff
If it plays to seed, Duke gets a shot at revenge.
Villanova smashed the Blue Devils in last year’s Sweet 16 on the Wildcats’ path to the Final Four.
Duke is the No. 1 seed, Nova is No. 2, and the Blue Devils are feeling pretty good about themselves. They won their eighth Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 11 years Sunday by beating Georgia Tech, so Duke has the conference-title thing down.
Now, it’s a matter of returning to the Final Four. The Blue Devils haven’t been since 2004. It’s been five straight years of losing before the regional final, always as the better-seeded team.
But these Devils, led by Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, have been terrific down the stretch, winning 12 of 13.
Fourth-seeded Purdue was demoted based on its drubbing by Minnesota in the Big Ten semifinals, and eighth-seeded California might have received a higher-than-expected slot because of the Pacific-10’s abysmal performance this season.
With the regional semifinals and final in Houston, look for a couple of inspired Big 12 entries. Third-seeded Baylor is a dangerous team with one of the nation’s surprise players in forward Ekpe Udoh.
Fifth-seeded Texas A&M, situated about 100 miles from Reliant Stadium, is a tough out. But the Aggies open play in a state they’d rather forget. They’re headed to Washington, and it was across the state—in Seattle—that they lost one of their best players to a devastating injury when guard Derrick Roland broke his leg against Washington.
But A&M rallied to complete its best regular season in four years.
Keep an eye on Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish played their best ball of the season in the final three weeks, with and without Luke Harangody.
No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 10 St. Mary’s
The Spiders have an NCAA upset tradition but haven’t been dancing since 2004. They’ve set a school record for victories (26). St. Mary’s ended Gonzaga’s hex by crushing the Bulldogs in the West Coast Conference Tournament. This should be a tense game between well-coached teams.
No. 13 Siena over No. 4 Purdue
This will be the most talked-about upset possibility of the first round, so the Boilermakers will be ready. It may not matter. Siena, with four double-digit scorers, is that good.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds
Look for Wildcats guard Reynolds to pick up where he left off last March, when he led Villanova to the Final Four.