After an early exit in last year's NCAA Tournament, the Duke Blue Devils hope to avoid another upset as they tangle with the 15th-seeded Albany Great Danes in the Midwest Region's second round at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday.
Duke had not lost on a neutral court this season until its last outing when it dropped an 83-74 decision to Maryland in the ACC Tournament. Mike Krzyzewski's squad still recorded a very impressive campaign without any home losses. The Blue Devils are closing in on 2,000 victories as a program, currently sitting at 1,998 wins and hopes to become just the fourth school ever to reach that mark shortly. Coach K will be looking to guide the program to its 16th Final Four appearance and fifth national title. All-time Duke is 96-32 in NCAA Tournament play and Krzyzewski's 79 NCAA Tournament wins are the most by any coach in Division I history.
Albany ran the table in the American East Tournament as the fourth seed to punch its ticket to the Big Dance. Mike Black led the Great Danes with 14 points, while Luke Devlin chimed in with 12 points off the bench. Black was named the Reggie Lewis Most Outstanding Player of the tournament while Sam Rowley and Jacob Iati were both named to the American East All-Championship team. This will be the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the school since 2007.
Duke and Albany have met just once in program history. Duke won the only meeting, 111-70, on Dec. 17, 2007 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The winner here will move into the third round against either Cincinnati or Creighton.
The Great Danes lost to Ohio State by 22 points in their only contest versus a ranked foe this season. Black paces the squad with 14.1 ppg on 40.3 percent shooting from the floor, while Iati nets 12.1 ppg with a 41-percent efficiency rating from 3-point range. Rowley leads Albany on the boards with 6.3 rebounds per outing. The Great Danes were stellar defensively throughout their conference tournament run as they held Maine to 49 points, Stony Brook to 59 and Vermont to 49 in the title game.
An anchor in the frontcourt, Mason Plumlee finished second in the ACC in scoring (17.2 ppg), rebounding (10.2 rpg) and field-goal percentage (.589), en route to All-ACC First-Team honors. He gets plenty of help from sharpshooters Seth Curry (third in the ACC at 17.0 ppg) and Ryan Kelly (14.3 ppg). Curry has really elevated his game this season and is starting to resemble his older brother Stephen Curry, who had a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament as a Davidson Wildcat. Quinn Cook (12.4 ppg) and Rasheed Sulaimon (11.5 ppg) add to the scoring depth for a talented and deep Duke squad.