Monday, March 19, 2018


Tom Keegan: Duke vs. Kansas best of potential Elite Eight matchups

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets under the bucket for a shot before Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets under the bucket for a shot before Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.


Most believe that matchups and magic play big parts in surviving and advancing in the NCAA tournament, but few ever mention another key to staying alive: timing.

History tells us too much of a good thing all at once can haunt a school during March Madness.

If only a few of those made shots wasted in the Virginia blowout had waited until the Kansas State game to fall, UMBC could have advanced to the Sweet 16 and the other 15 schools would spend the first half of this week swallowed by the Retrievers’ shadow.

More than one friend told me that when watching Kansas slaughter Purdue in last year’s Sweet 16, 98-66, including a 51-26 second half, they secretly tried to will shots out of the hoop late in the game so that some good fortune would be left for two nights later in the Elite Eight round. The Jayhawks caught fire and never cooled, making 15 of 28 3-pointers to run the Boilermakers out of the building on the same night Oregon looked so unimpressive in sneaking past Michigan, 69-68.

Two days later, confounded by Oregon’s matchup zone, Kansas made just 5 of 25 3-point shots, and coach Bill Self was denied a third trip to the Final Four.

I’ve always wondered whether the adrenaline generated during dominant performances that result in blowouts has an exhausting hangover effect. If so, Kansas need not worry about that yet.

The Jayhawks were solid yet unspectacular in defeating Penn and Seton Hall to advance to the Midwest Regional in Omaha.

“Well, I think in the NCAA Tournament, you don't worry as much if you played well or if you played poorly,” Self said after the Seton Hall game. “You worry more about did we advance? And I think that's all we did this weekend is we advanced.”


“I don’t think we were good against Penn, except for short stretches, and I don't think we were very good (Saturday), except for short stretches,” Self said. “And, of course, Seton Hall had a lot to do with that. But we put ourselves in a position where hopefully we'll play much better next week and play our best ball.”

Well said.

If Clemson plays anywhere near at the level it did against Auburn, Kansas will need to play better than it did in Wichita to win — a reasonable expectation, since each day removed from injuring his knee is a day of improvement for center Udoka Azubuike. Plus, Devonte’ Graham surely will shoot better in Omaha than he did against Seton Hall.

In the ideal Kansas world, the Jayhawks would play well enough to get past Clemson and then have the stars align so that its crazy-good game is saved for Duke, because that’s what it will take to defeat the Blue Devils in March.

Next to Kentucky, Duke has the least experience of any Sweet 16 team. The Blue Devils also have the most talented roster, and according to, have the most size in the tournament, other than their Midwest regional semifinal opponent, Syracuse.

As for pure talent, nobody matches Duke. ranks its top 100 draft prospects and all five Duke starters appear in the top 52: 4 - Marvin Bagley, 6 - Wendell Carter Jr., 30 - Grayson Allen, 48 - Trevon Duval, 52 - Gary Trent Jr.

As good as Clemson looked in blasting Auburn, there is no reason to fear that KU could look past the Tigers. But from the outside looking in, Kansas-Duke shapes up as the most intriguing of the 16 potential Elite Eight matchups.

It’s not likely Syracuse can stand in the way of it happening. Bagley and Carter combined for 35 points in Duke’s 60-44 thrashing of the Orange on Feb. 24 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils are favored by 11-1/2 points in the rematch.

Kansas is a four-point favorite against Clemson, so the oddsmakers like the chances of a Kansas-Duke showdown taking place Sunday in Omaha. The blue-blood programs last clashed Nov. 15, 2016, when Frank Mason III pulled up and drilled a jumper in the final seconds for the 77-75 win in Madison Square Garden. Big moment on a big stage, just not as what potentially is on Sunday's menu.


Mike Greer 10 months ago

That's what I've been writing! It's like a poker hand where you could win with a pair but you get four of a kind, that's not going to be the case with the next hand.

Tony Bandle 10 months ago

I would pay serious money to see someone cold cock that whiny little prick, Grayson Allen! Interesting how everyone is assuming that Duke will be in the Elite Eight....kind of like Virginia, Arizona, Michigan State, North Carolina, Xavier, etc,. etc.

Danny Hernandez 10 months ago

heck, everyone's assuming Coach K's getting his 6th NCAA Title, and it might happen but let's play the games first

Marius Rowlanski 10 months ago

I'm not assuming anything. Certainly not that Coach K is getting his 6th NCAA title.

Dick Williams 10 months ago

I still cannot get over the broadcasters saying that Grayson's 'bootie rump' tripping of the player heading back on defense a ridiculous flagrancy foul. This player almost hits the ground and has no control over his body which very easily could have ended with a career-ending injury. And this is no big deal?! All because things were not going the way a very poor sportsman would like? No one has consistently acted more spoiled and entitled than Grayson Allen out of the thousands of athletes that play this game and I am sick and tired of his attitude and downright viciousness being called, "No big thing."

Jonathan Allison 10 months ago

Duke fans are voting for Marvin Bagley. We need to vote for Devonte' Graham for Naismith POY.

You can vote once per day.

Brad Watson 10 months ago Reagan would say "There you go again" are getting way ahead of yourself ....its all about Clemson.....nobody else...blinders on focus on Fridays' game....Friday nights' game is a championship's for all the marbles....and the total focus needs to be on the article for another time...we don't dare look ahead to what might be down the road..we just aren't that good ...if we play like we did last week..we will get beat....average basketball doesn't cut it ....I love our team...but they still have not played a complete game ...we need that against Clemson....they need to start playing championship basketball or they don't deserve anything...seriously...greatness is inside of these kids...they just need to bring it out.

Dick Williams 10 months ago

You use a word that we should all remember when we talk about our guys this time of year as to what they should or should not do and that word is kids. I know they certainly do not think of themselves as kids but let's face it, they are and so it made me mighty happy to hear Bill say that he finally wanted to make sure that there was one thing that was more important than anything during this tournament and that was that these guys should have fun. All teams, loaded with talent or not, will have good games and bad games and no control over when that happens (see UMBC win), but if they have fun then just maybe they can at least enjoy the tournament that every basketball 'jones' dreams of growing up. Isn't that what we all should hope our guys have no matter the outcome? They sure deserve it with all the hard work they have put into it.

Brad Watson 10 months ago

Trust me..they are having fun The Spring Dance is always fun....I love these onto my name and read all my comments throughout the will see how I feel about this group...comment history does not lie...see for yourself...I have been a crimson and blue blood my whole life....I know greatness lies within this group....and so does Coach.....I BELIEVE IN THIS TEAM!!!!!!!!!.

Lawrence McGlinn 10 months ago

We're not the team. We can look ahead. It's OK. I guarantee that if you and I look ahead to Duke it will not affect the outcome of the game against Clemson one iota.

Marius Rowlanski 10 months ago

About the only thing I haven't heard over the weekend is anyone picking Kansas to go all the way.

I'm fine sliding below the radar.

Chad Dexter 10 months ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't it be 12 potential Elite Eight matchups?

Matt Tait 10 months ago

No worries, Chad. Here's how it breaks down:

Kansas vs. Duke Kansas vs. Syracuse Clemson vs. Duke Clemson vs. Syracuse

Those are the 4 potential Elite Eight matchups just in the Midwest and the three other regions each have four potential matchups as well, making for a total of 16.

Chad Smith 10 months ago

We need to stay doubted and underrated. We play better with the chip on our shoulder circa 2012. That team was very unimpressive in the first 3 rounds of the ncaa tournament, but managed to get to the title game.

We dont need hype, we need motivation, and being undervalued will resonate with our players. ROCK CHALK

Marty Clark 10 months ago

Worry about Clemson first please.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months ago

Let them boys know: KU doesn't get respect on the betting boards:

Let's prove them wrong one more time. Let's go Jayhawk!!!

Craig Carson 10 months ago

I love my Hawks, but if they can slip past Clemson and if they indeed play Duke, I think the ride stops there..Duke is so overloaded with size and depth it isnt even would take career days from several guys to beat Duke..or an historically bad shooting night from Duke..ill root for them to win obviously

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