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Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero (5) drives to the basket during the ACC Tournament. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
March 24th, 2022
The second-seeded Duke Blue Devils will attempt to extend head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final NCAA Tournament run when they face the third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders, who enter as a slight one-point favorite in Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup, set for tipoff at 9:39 p.m. ET in San Francisco.
In Krzyzewski's most recent game, the winningest coach in NCAA Tournament history notched his 99th March Madness victory against another icon, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
In the 85-76 win, Duke (30-6) was forced to show its grit against a feisty Spartans squad, which led by five with nearly five minutes to go. The Blue Devils responded with back-to-back layups and a 3-pointer to tie the game at 72 with 3:26 remaining, then extended their lead to six with just under a minute, behind a Jeremy Roach 3 and a pair of free throws from Wendell Moore Jr.
Duke shot 57.1% from the field and out-rebounded the Spartans 35-31, while freshman forward AJ Griffin was sidelined for the last 8:24 with an ankle injury.
The status of Griffin, a projected top 10 NBA draft pick, is unknown, but his presence will be crucial for the young Blue Devils' chances of an Elite Eight berth.
On Wednesday, Griffin was seen practicing with the team, so he's likely to hit the hardwood on Thursday, but he may be less than 100%.
AJ Griffin, glistening with sweat. Rest assured Duke fans, he's playing on Thursday. https://t.co/Cn0emt2jYJ— Jason Evans (@JasonDukeEvans) March 23, 2022
AJ Griffin, glistening with sweat. Rest assured Duke fans, he's playing on Thursday. https://t.co/Cn0emt2jYJ
Leading the way against Michigan State was freshman forward Paolo Banchero, who scored 19 points and grabbed seven boards. The NBA prospect was one of five Duke players who scored in double figures, along with Moore, Roach, sophomore center Mark Williams (15 points, eight rebounds, five blocks) and freshman guard Trevor Keels, who came off the bench.
The Blue Devils will need the same balanced scoring against a veteran Red Raiders team whose defense ranks first in KenPom's college basketball ratings.
In Texas Tech's second-round matchup, the team shot just 35.6% from the field, including 26.7% from 3, and made just one of its final 11 field goals.
With 2:09 remaining, the Red Raiders trailed 52-49, but their stingy defense hunkered down to keep the Fighting Irish from making a shot in the closing minutes, while Texas Tech hit eight straight free throws as part of a 10-1 run.
With their 59-53 win, the Red Raiders advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2018 and the first time under new head coach Mark Adams, a former Texas Tech assistant.
To make the Elite Eight, Adams will need to out-coach one of the best in college basketball, who is set to retire at the end of this season.
Coach K has been in the regional semifinal round 27 times before and will have his players eager to keep this tournament run alive for another game.
I knew Coach K’s a legend, but 1,200,000 career wins?? That’s crazy! https://t.co/PiQDzQ4dyT— Carson Field (@CarsonDField) March 21, 2022
I knew Coach K’s a legend, but 1,200,000 career wins?? That’s crazy! https://t.co/PiQDzQ4dyT
The Blue Devils rank third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, and need to move the ball around to find the right shots against the best defensive team in the country.
If they can do that, and cut down on some of the turnovers they've committed the last few games, Coach K will move forward with his 100th career NCAA Tournament win. Look for Duke to squeak past Texas Tech and move one step closer to a record-setting 13th appearance in the Final Four for Coach K.
Score prediction: Duke 68, Texas Tech 64
Our predictive engine is calling for Duke to win outright.
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