All previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule
Duke Blue Devils
San Diego State Aztecs
Conference: Mountain West
Date: Sunday, March 21
Time: 2:40 pm Eastern
Location: Charlotte, NC
San Diego State tries to knock off 1-seed Duke.
Duke San Diego State
SportsRatings Power Ratings
Strength: #4 Strength: #42
Median play: #3 Median play: #35
Road/Neutral Rank: #5 Road/Neutral Rank: #37
Other Power Ratings
Sagarin(predictor):#5 Sagarin: #35
Pomeroy: #7 Pomeroy: #27
Offense: #3 Offense: #161
Defense: #58 Defense: #4
LRMC: #6 LRMC: #26
BPI: #7 BPI: #42
Power Rating Derivatives
2nd half/season: #5 2nd half/season: #33
Last 6 games: #5 Last 6 games: #31
Injury correction: #2 Injury correction: #33
Consistency: #349 Consistency: #171
Deep Run Rank: #17 Deep Run Rank: #34
Best Shot: #2 Best Shot: #37
Schedule Strength: #16 Schedule Strength: #93
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. Now, San Diego State certainly qualifies as a Final Four candidate with that brilliant #4 defense...but it's paired with a very average offense. At least Duke's weak spot is in the top 100.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (11): =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, Robert Morris+29
- 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. He scored 21 against Robert Morris but Quinn Cook led with 22, hitting 6 of 10 3-pointers.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (5): Utah+4, =BYU+OT, @Wyoming+8, Wyoming+26, =St. John's+12
- Losses to tournament teams (5): =Arizona-2, @Cincinnati-OT, @Boise St.-15, Boise St.-10, =Wyoming-2
- Other losses (3): @Washington-13, @Fresno St.-2, @Colorado St.-6
Key Info: After last year's 31-5 campaign expectations were high for the Aztecs once again, and beating Utah, BYU, and Pitt in the first five games certainly helped them live up to the hype. Losing to Arizona by just 2 points didn't hurt, either. But losses to Washington and Cincinnati made the Aztecs 7-3 in their brutal early schedule, and they lost an early Mountain West game to lowly Fresno State. The rest of the conference season went well but not nearly as dominant as last year, as SDSU fell to Colorado State once and Boise State twice. They beat the Rams in the tournament but were upset by Wyoming 45-43 and settled for an 8-seed after last year's 4.
The Aztecs' meager scoring is led by Winston Shepard at 11.1 points per game. JJ O'Brien led the team with 18 against St. John's as they managed 76 points.
Game Analysis: San Diego State has some size to deal with Okafor; in fact, at every other position they're bigger than Duke. The question is whether they have the talent to stop Okafor. The answer is that no one really does; he has to be managed, not stopped. SDSU center Skylar Spencer is not a big offensive threat like Okafor but he does average 2.5 blocks per game. Winston Shepard can help out but not at the expense of his own offensive production.
That's the basic problem. Duke has too many weapons, and focusing on plugging up one leaves many others open, like Duke's clutch of three-point shooters. The few teams that beat Duke have focused on the other side of the equation. Some teams lit it up from the 3-point line, like NC State (10 of 16) and Miami (10 of 20), or have a great offense like Notre Dame's #2-ranked unit. San Diego State doesn't shoot the 3 well and as noted above, their offense is pedestrian.
Duke by 9.5
Power rating: spread
Duke by 11.1
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
San Diego St: 23.9%
The line opened at 7 1/2 and has increased to 9 1/2, possibly because the public thinks more about Duke playing at "home" than Vegas does. The Blue Devils are a few hours away from Cameron, but San Diego State is a few time zones away from their house. We give Duke full home court for the 11.1 point estimate and 3/4 chance to win. A normal 8-seed has a 19% chance to win, so San Diego State is still closer even if considered to be playing on the road.
Bottom line: It seems to take a good offense to beat Duke, and San Diego State doesn't have it. The Aztec D should keep it close, though.
Final prediction: Duke 66, San Diego State 61
More previews: click here for the full 2015 NCAA tournament schedule.