All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Duke Blue Devils
Robert Morris Colonials
Date: Friday, March 20
Time: 7:10 pm Eastern
Location: Charlotte, NC
The Colonials try to beat Duke in North Carolina, where they seem to play every year...
Duke Robert Morris
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #4 Strength: #192
Median play: #3 Median play: #169
Road/Neutral Rank: #5 Road/Neutral Rank: #192
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#5 Sagarin: #194
Pomeroy: #7 Pomeroy: #172
Offense: #3 Offense: #187
Defense: #58 Defense: #168
LRMC: #6 LRMC: #172
BPI: #7 BPI: #193
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #5 2nd half/season: #161
Last 6 games: #5 Last 6 games: #87
Injury correction: #2 Injury correction: #194
Consistency: #349 Consistency: #334
Deep Run Rank: #17 Deep Run Rank: #332
Best Shot: #2 Best Shot: #67
Schedule Strength: #16 Schedule Strength: #55
There are two numbers that cause concern for Duke's long-term bracket survival this year, despite their universal high rankings. One is their defensive efficiency ranking of #58. For years it was said that you needed to rank 25th or better to make the Final Four. Then someone (West Virginia?) made it with > 25, so that turned into, you have to rank 25th or better when all is said and done. Then last year Kentucky ended up #41, and Wisconsin #49, but the idea is that the vast majority over a decade, with very few exceptions, have ranked in the top 25, and #58 doesn't cut it. The 2nd concern is Duke's monstrous volatility—#349 out of 351 teams. That's good if it's on the upside—then we rank them the #2 most likely to win it all. But if they hit downside volatility, they could miss the Sweet Sixteen. A third issue is that only Strength ranks them in the top four, which technically makes them a weak 1-seed; Sagarin, Pomeroy, LRMC, and BPI don't consider them a Final Four team (without considering bracket layout of course). The #2 ranking for "injury correction" shows the team as they've played (better) since dismissing Rasheed Sulaimon, which may be a fluke result. As for Robert Morris, their #87 recent play is pretty spectacular for a 16-seed. And with their own volatility extremely high, if they hit their upside and Duke hits their downside, it could be a game...if Duke weren't playing in-state.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (10): =Michigan St.+10, @Wisconsin+10, Wofford+29, @Louisville+11, @St. John's+9, @Virginia+6, Notre Dame+30, North Carolina+OT, @North Carolina+7, =North Carolina St.+24
- Losses to tournament teams (3): @North Carolina St.-12, @Notre Dame-4, Notre Dame-10
- Other losses (1): Miami FL-16
Key Info: Duke's first game was a 113-44 win and technically, that's the best they ever did. Realistically, their wins over Michigan State, Stanford, and especially beating 1-seed Wisconsin 80-70 in Madison were more impressive. For a time the Blue Devils looked unstoppable but then they were stopped by North Carolina State, and shockingly by Miami at home, 90-74. Duke rebounded to win 15 of their next 16, and even that loss, 77-73 at 3-seed Notre Dame, was a strong game. Their only weak game in the stretch was game 28, an overtime win at Virginia Tech that almost spoiled their 1-seed bid. They held onto that despite the final loss to Notre Dame playing in Greensboro. As always Duke has tons of weapons but by far the most important is 6-11 freshman center Jahlil Okafor, whose 17.7 ppg and 9.0 rebounds have made him a leader for the Wooden Award.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (1): =North Florida+1
- Losses to tournament teams (4): Lafayette-27, @North Carolina-44, @Georgetown-14, Buffalo-15
- Other losses (10): @Chattanooga-15, Youngstown St.-8, @Toledo-26, @Clemson-7, @St. Francis PA-7, St. Francis NY-5, Bryant-3, @LIU Brooklyn-7, LIU Brooklyn-1, @Sacred Heart-4
Key Info: Robert Morris started the season very differently than Duke, losing 77-50 to fellow 16-seed Lafayette while playing at home. The very next game they lost at North Carolina 103-59, but a week later they only lost 80-66 at Georgetown. The Colonials wins and losses both tended to be by extremes, so they notched victory margins of 17, 16, and 25 to go with the early blowouts. That continued in the Northeast Conference, where, after losing 4 of 6 in one stretch, they put together a three-game winning streak over Bryant, Wagner, and St. Francis PA to close the season, and then another three-game run to win the conference tournament, beating the very same teams (almost: they beat St. Francis NY instead of St. Francis PA). Three Colonial guards average around 15 points per game, and against North Florida leading scorer Rodney Pryor had 20 while Lucky Jones led with 21 and Marcquise Reed had 19.
Game Analysis: If Duke plays like they did in their final loss to Notre Dame and Robert Morris plays like they did in their last three wins, the Colonials have a good chance of winning. Robert Morris probably will play that way—it's Duke that is unlikely to cooperate with a second game in a row of 18% three-point shooting and only making 50% of their free throws.
On the other hand, if Duke plays like they did in their opening-season win over Presbyterian and Robert Morris plays like they did in their opener, it would be the worst NCAA tournament game of all time. But the point is, Robert Morris isn't playing like that any more.
Unlike some small-time teams, Robert Morris does have some height available to deal with Okafor; four players top 6-8, but three of them are freshmen. But Okafor is just a freshman, too, right?
No line yet
Power rating: spread
Duke by 27.34
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
Robert Morris: 5.1%
Robert Morris' chances—even after giving Duke full home court advantage, which is excessive—are closer to those of a 15-seed taking on a 2-seed. Which makes sense, because Robert Morris is every bit as good as a normal 15-seed while Duke is probably closer to a 2-seed in quality. If we considered the court fully neutral, the Colonials would have an 8.5% chance of upset. And furthermore, that's considering the full season, not taking into account the Colonials recent winning streak.
Bottom line: We give the Colonials a fighting chance..to keep it close for about 1/3 of the game.
Final prediction: Duke 80, Robert Morris 66
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.