I can’t breathe. Again.
Duke survived yet another nailbiter against another familiar, scrappy, and hot team with a Sweet Sixteen win over Virginia Tech, 75-73. Hats off to the Hokies for a game exceptionally well played. They were down 7 with 2:39 minutes to go, but battled back to contest it to the very end. However, the “will to win” for these young Blue Devils, as Coach K put it earlier this season, wouldn’t be defeated. Tre Jones had a career high 22 points on 5-7 shooting after going 1-10 in the previous two contests. With two points to go and 1.6 seconds remaining and Duke clinging to a two-point lead, Ahmed Hill missed the put-back layup off the lob from Justin Robinson that would’ve sent it to overtime. Duke is Elite Eight-bound.
Tre Jones was one of the biggest factors in this game, delivering with power. Tre is going through a difficult emotional time: Tre and Tyus’ mother, Mrs. Debbie Jones, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer just before the tournament. “I’m playing for my mama,” Tre said to CBS Sports’ Tracy Wolfson. Such an amazing performance for a guy who’s battling through the adversity alongside his mother. All the best to the Jones family; we know that fighters come from that family.
Zion Williamson had another great game with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and some huge blocks to lead all scorers. RJ Barrett struggled to score in the first half but had no trouble involving others, with 7 of his 11 assists coming in the opening period. He came storming back in the second, though, with 15 points towards a total of 18.
Cam Reddish was a sudden loss for this game; he’s dealing with a left leg issue. There’s no timetable for his return as the decision over his availability didn’t come until mid-first half.
Now approaches a matchup with Michigan State, who crushed a good but inconsistent LSU team. That game will be on Sunday, but the time for that game is yet to be announced.
Bleed blue. By the way? WASSUP WASSUP AYYY, ELITE EIGHT.
Though it seemed to be an open race, the committee has decided that Duke will be at the top spot as we begin the most important three weeks of the season. As the top seed, Duke will face the winner of North Carolina Central and North Dakota State. Were NCCU to win, it would be an all-Durham Round of 64 as the Eagles are in closer proximity than even UNC and share the Bull City with the Blue Devils.
The other teams in the East are #2 seed Michigan State, #3 LSU, #4 VA Tech, #5 Mississippi State, #6 Maryland, #7 Louisville, #8 VCU, #9 UCF, #10 Minnesota, #11 Belmont and Temple (First Four), #12 Liberty, #13 Saint Louis, #14 Yale, and #15 Bradley. There are quite a few under-the-radar teams in this bracket: for example, for weeks Virginia Tech has been without star Justin Robinson but will regain him for the NCAA Tournament. Additionally, UCF has something virtually no one but the American Conference has seen before— Tacko Fall, the 7’6” yet mobile center. Like essentially any other, this bracket is no cakewalk to Minneapolis.
Bleed blue. Duke will play one of the two #16’s on Friday at 7:10pm, and as we all learned last year, that game cannot be overlooked.
The basketball gods have been unkind to us of late.
- RJ Barrett was dealing with a stomach issue but still played 36 minutes (he usually plays 40/40).
- Zion Williamson out with the knee sprain.
- Cam Reddish injured mid-game and didn’t look the same but still grinded on.
- Same with both Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier.
That sounds so fun, doesn’t it?
Duke fell to Virginia Tech for the second loss in three games on Tuesday. Hats off to Virginia Tech– they played very well and we didn’t. RJ Barrett saw 2 to 3 defenders at almost every touch, under the weather in the first place, and the defense is still imperfect without Zion. RJ, Cam, and Marques Bolden combined for 52 but it wasn’t enough.
If there was one glaring issue on defense it was the strong side corner. That’s a spot you just don’t leave open, and it was left often when the ball went inside to a very strong big man in Kerry Blackshear. Cam Reddish said that they “weren’t rotating fast enough” and Coach K spoke similarly. The defense in general is an area of focus in the absence of Zion Williamson whose return is still unclear; he is yet to be upgraded from day-to-day.
Bleed blue. It doesn’t feel good, but a this rough 6-game stretch, especially with half of those played without Zion, is over. We have Miami on Saturday.