Don’t look now, but Duke’s primed to defend its NCAA tournament title.
The Devils handled No. 6 North Carolina, 75-58, in the ACC tournament title game, showcasing some impressive man-to-man defense en route to winning their 30th game of the season. Only Ohio State, Kansas and San Diego State have more wins. They’re fantastic from beyond the arc, don’t turn the ball over and hit the offensive glass.
If freshman guard Kyrie Irving does return from the toe injury that’s kept him out since Dec. 5, a loaded team gets even better. Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Kyle Singler, Andre Dawkins, Mason and Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Irving? That’s a team that’ll give Ohio State and Kansas a run for the de-facto favorite.
Duke isn’t quite as efficient on offense and defense as last year’s title team, but they’re certainly as good as anyone in this year’s field. In fact, no one – not the Buckeyes, the Jayhawks – are more efficient on offense and defense. That was on display vs. the Heels, who had trouble establishing anything on offense because of that defense.
“It was the ultimate team effort,” Smith said. “Everybody made big plays. When you do that, there’s something inside you that you just have to feel good and we felt that.”
And now? The Devils turn their attention to repeating as champs. Not that coach Mike Krzyzewski talked much about it afterward. He wanted to savor the moment.
“I love the ACC. The ACC has made me a better coach,” Krzyzewski sadi. “I just feel that when you are a part of something that’s bigger than you and you’re in a tournament representing that conference, you should try to be at your best. That’s my attitude with it.
“We don’t talk about the NCAA tournament or anything like that. We just say we want to win this tournament. You could see how happy we are.”
You know what would make them even happier? Cutting down the nets in April for the second straight year.
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