Michigan State v Duke

Duke advances to the Elite 8 by knocking off Michigan State


No. 2 seed Duke slowly but surely pulled away from No. 3 seed Michigan State in the second half on Friday night, advancing past the Spartans and into the Elite 8 with a 71-61 win.

The Blue Devils will take on No. 1 seed Louisville on Sunday night for the right to go to the Final Four.

That regional final will be a rematch of the Battle 4 Atlantis championship back in November, a game that Duke won while the Cardinals were playing without Gorgui Dieng. It sets up an even more intriguing matchup, as Rick Pitino, when he was with Kentucky, and Mike Krzyzewski played arguably the greatest college basketball game of all-time back in 1992.

You may remember the ending

Back to the point, the reason that Duke is heading back to the Elite 8 isn’t because Seth Curry went off for 29 points and hit six threes, although that certainly didn’t hurt matters. It’s also not because of the play of Mason Plumlee, although the biggest Blue Devil was the best post player on the floor. He finished with 14 points, seven boards and a pair of blocks, which was valuable. So was the sequence in the second half when, after picking up his third foul, Plumlee immediately proceeded to score on back-to-back possessions in the post before drawing Derrick Nix’s third foul.

No, the credit for Friday’s win must be given to Duke’s defensive effort.

They held Michigan State to just 40.0% shooting from the field, a number that was much uglier before the Spartans scored a flurry of points in the final four minutes with Duke already up 13. More importantly, Michigan State couldn’t get into any kind of a rhythm offensively for the majority of the second half. Branden Dawson’s layup with 3:32 left in the game cut Duke’s lead to 62-53, snapping an 8:33 stretch where Michigan State didn’t hit a field.

It was that stretch that earned the Blue Devils the victory.

And it’s going to be that kind of defend that they need to play if they want to be able to knock off Louisville and make their way back to the Final Four.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Big South moving 2016 conference tournament

Cliff Ellis
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The Big South is moving its 2016 men’s basketball tournament out of Coastal Carolina and a new site will be figured out by November. According to a release from the conference the Big South is using a league bylaw that stipulates that members leaving with less than two years of notice are not eligible to host championships. Coastal Carolina announced this summer that it would be leaving for the Sun Belt as of July 2016, so the Big South wants to find a new location that benefits teams staying in the league.

The Big South men’s and women’s conference tournaments are now also going to be split into two unique events, with the men’s championships being held Thursday-Sunday, March 3-6. The women’s event comes the next week from March 10-13. Bids for both events will come into the league and a new location will be selected in the next few months.

It will be interesting to see if the site of the conference tournament is moved to a campus site or placed at a neutral venue. That type of thing could alter how the NCAA tournament autobid gets played out. With Coastal Carolina coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, this obviously changes their approach to the postseason now that they have to leave their city.

Virginia Tech could redshirt sophomore guard

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Virginia Tech is trying to decide what to do with injury sophomore guard Ahmed Hill, who had surgery this summer to deal with a tear in his patella tendon in his left knee.

The 6-foot-5 Hill has still not been released to work out with the team, but he is about a week to 10 days ahead of schedule in his rehab. But the injury is still nagging enough that Hill might not be healthy enough to really contritbute this season. Head coach Buzz Williams is deciding soon whether he wants to redshirt Hill or not.

Hill started a team-high 30 games for the Hokies last season, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

“I don’t have a decision on (Hill),” Williams said to reporters on Monday. “I will make the final decision. I’ll let (him) and his mom be a part of it, but I want to make a decision using the wisdom of doing this for a long period of time. If you let a kid make the decision, they always want to play.

“Right now, I don’t feel comfortable that I would want to play him. It’s just too early to be able to have much more of an answer than that.”

It’s still a rebuilding year for Virginia Tech, but they do get Maryland transfer Seth Allen, who is a talented guard who can score. The Hokies were hoping to have Hill and Allen as complimentary perimeter scorers, but now the plans might have to be altered. Williams went on to say that he would like to make a decision on Hill’s status by Halloween.