An intriguing matchup is on tap in the third round of the Midwest Regional bracket of the NCAA Tournament, as the second-seeded Duke Blue Devils take on the seventh-seeded Creighton Bluejays at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday.
Duke is certainly no stranger to this event, as the team boasts of 97 tournament victories all-time (third most), including 80 under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the most by any one coach in Division I history. The Blue Devils were able to add that 80th victory on Friday, and exorcised the demons from last year's stunning second-round exit, with a 73-61 victory over Albany. With the win, Duke has moved within one of becoming just the fourth program in NCAA history to reach the 2,000-win plateau.
Greg McDermott's Bluejays had another stellar season in 2012-13, winning both the Missouri Valley regular season and tournament titles. It wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Creighton advanced into the third round with a hard-fought 67-63 victory over Cincinnati on Friday. It marks the first time in school history that the Bluejays have won NCAA Tournament games in consecutive seasons.
The winner of this matchup will move into the Sweet 16 against either Memphis or Michigan State.
Returning First-Team All-American and MVC Player of the Year Doug McDermott posted 27 points and 11 rebounds, leading the Bluejays to a four-point win over a tough Cincinnati squad in second-round action. Gregory Echenique posted 13 points and seven rebounds, while Ethan Wragge chipped in with 12 points off the bench for Creighton, which nailed 22-of-25 free-throws, including a few huge charity tosses down the stretch to earn the win.
Another big season could land McDermott on the All-American list once again, as he finished the year second in the nation in scoring, currently netting 23.2 ppg. With his big game against the Bearcats, McDermott broke his own single-season scoring record, set a year ago. Although there isn't another player on the roster even remotely close to McDermott's offensive production, there is some balance, as the team as a whole is averaging a solid 75.1 ppg on just over 50 percent shooting. Echenique (9.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is a solid presence down low, while Grant Gibbs (8.5 ppg), Wragge (7.8 ppg) and Austin Chatman (7.4 ppg) have all had their moments this season.
The Blue Devils made sure there would not be another early exit, using Mason Plumlee's dominance down low and Seth Curry's perimeter acumen to keep the Great Danes at arm's length the entire game. Curry was 10-of-14 from the floor and finished with a game-high 26 points. Plumlee poured in 23 points on 9- of-11 shooting, and grabbed eight boards for Duke, which shot a hefty 58.7 percent from the floor against Albany.
That has been the formula for Duke throughout the season, as Plumlee's play in the paint and Curry's steady scoring from the perimeter has been unstoppable for the most part. The 6-foot-10 Plumlee is converting just about 60 percent from the floor on the year and leads the Blue Devils in both scoring (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (10.2 rpg). Curry, who shoots over 43 percent from behind the arc and leads the team with 83 3-pointers, is a close second at 17.3 ppg. Ryan Kelly (.466 from 3-point range) is another sharpshooter, netting 14.0 ppg. The scoring depth doesn't end there, as Quinn Cook (12.2 ppg) and Rasheed Sulaimon (11.4 ppg) have made key contributions as well.