As of Monday, March 18, 2013
© Copyright 2013
Gwinnett Daily Post
Preview: Albany vs. Duke
Duke lost a chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament by falling to Maryland in its opening game of the ACC tournament. Still, the Blue Devils are well-positioned for a run at a national title, earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional. Duke will open against America East champion Albany on Friday in Philadelphia. The Blue Devils have not lost to a non-conference opponent, but they have the memory of last season's stunning first-round ouster by Lehigh - when they were also a No. 2 seed.
Albany was a middling 9-7 in conference play but squeezed out three straight narrow victories in the America East tournament, including a 53-49 win over Vermont in the title game, to secure its third NCAA berth and first since 2007. The Great Danes, who set a school record for victories, appear hopelessly overmatched against Duke, but they have a favorable slice of history. As a No. 16 seed in Philadelphia in 2006, Albany led top-seeded Connecticut by 12 points in the second half before succumbing.
TV: 12:15 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT ALBANY (24-10): The Great Danes split a pair of games against teams from power conferences in November, losing to Ohio State by 22 and stunning Washington on the road. They'll need a big game from their backcourt tandem of Mike Black and Jacob Iati, who average a combined 27 points and are the only players in double figures. They are also the team's top 3-point shooters, with Iati connecting on 41 percent from long range and making a team-high 89 3-pointers. Leading rebounder Sam Rowley, a 6-6 sophomore, and 6-10 classmate John Puk will have to hold their own on the boards.
ABOUT DUKE (27-5): The Blue Devils love to fire away from the perimeter but also have an anchor inside in 6-10 Mason Plumlee, who leads five starters in double figures at 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. Duke ranked sixth nationally in scoring and shot a robust 40.6 percent from 3-point range. Senior forward Ryan Kelly showed what a difference-maker he can be, returning from a 12-game injury absence to pour in 36 points and bury seven 3-pointers in a win over Miami on March 2. He has struggled since, going 2-for-13 from behind the arc in the past three games and scoring eight points in each of the last two.
Duke has wins over five conference tourney champions - Miami, Louisville, Ohio State, Florida Gulf Coast and Davidson.
Albany won its three conference tournament games by a total of seven points.
Duke has won four national championships - most recently in 2010 - and advanced to the Final Four 15 times.
PREDICTION: Duke 82, Albany 63