All previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule
Conference: Big 12
Duke Blue Devils
Date: Sunday, March 25
Time: 5:05 pm Eastern
Location: Omaha, NE
How typical, a 1-seed vs. a 2-seed. On top of that, it's Kansas vs. Duke, so commonplace...!
Strength: #6 Strength: #2
Pomeroy: #8 Pomeroy: #3
Offense: #5 Offense: #2
Defense: #46 Defense: #9
BPI: #7 BPI: #3
LRMC: #9 LRMC: #3
Consistency: #323 Consistency: #290
Schedule Strength: #2 Schedule Strength: #17
Tempo (Pomeroy): #149 Tempo: #92
AP Final Poll: #4 AP Final Poll: #9
AP Pre-season: #4 AP Pre-season: #1
SportsRatings Genetic Model:
Model Rank: #7 Model Rank: #5
So which team is the 1-seed and which is the 2-seed? Looking at the powe ratings, you'd expect the Blue Devils to be the 1-seed as they rank in the top 3 across the board. Kansas comes in 6th to 9th like a 2-seed. The two teams both have elite offenses but the difference on defensive efficiency is stark. If defense wins championships, Duke has the big edge in advancing to the Final Four.
But looking at both teams' inconsistency, there are clearly a lot of ways this game can play out. And Kansas is playing in their own backyard, 1,200 miles from the Duke campus.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (20): =(5)Kentucky+4, (12)South Dakota St.+34, (16)Texas Southern+43, =(11)Syracuse+16, @(10)Texas+6, @(6)TCU+4, (9)Kansas St.+1, @(5)West Virginia+5, (7)Texas A&M+11, @(9)Kansas St.+14, (6)TCU+7, (5)West Virginia+8, (10)Oklahoma+30, @(3)Texas Tech+2, (10)Texas+10, =(9)Kansas St.+16, =(5)West Virginia+11, (16)Penn+16, =(8)Seton Hall+4, =(5)Clemson+4
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (11): =(5)Kentucky+4, =(11)Syracuse+16, (9)Kansas St.+1, @(5)West Virginia+5, (7)Texas A&M+11, @(9)Kansas St.+14, (5)West Virginia+8, @(3)Texas Tech+2, =(9)Kansas St.+16, =(5)West Virginia+11, =(5)Clemson+4
- Losses to tournament teams (3): (11)Arizona St.-10, (3)Texas Tech-12, @(10)Oklahoma-5
- Other losses (4): Washington-9, Oklahoma St.-5, @Baylor-16, @Oklahoma St.-18
Overview: Kansas was an incredible 17-3 vs. the tournament field on Selection Sunday, helped by having 6 other conference teams in the Dance. Even more amazing, they had 10 wins over teams that reached the Sweet Sixteen! Seven of these are wins over the three other Big Twelve teams that made it—Kansas State x 3, West Virginia x 3, and Texas Tech—but they also played and beat Kentucky, Syracuse, and Texas A&M. Their poor consistency rating can be seen visually in the chart above; they win big and, on rare occasion, lose badly. The Jayhawks rely on their starters more than any other team in the tournament, something that could be a factor deeper in the tournament. The team's leading scorer Devonte Graham scored 29 against Penn in a gritty win. They beat Seton Hall by 4 with Malik Newman scoring 28. The Jayhawks had another 4-point victory over Clemson where Newman led with 17.
- Wins vs. tournament teams (12): =(3)Michigan St.+7, =(10)Texas+OT, =(6)Florida+3, (9)Florida St.+7, @(6)Miami FL+8, (8)Virginia Tech+22, @(5)Clemson+9, (11)Syracuse+16, (2)North Carolina+10, =(15)Iona+22, =(7)Rhode Island+25, =(11)Syracuse+4
- Wins vs. Sweet Sixteen (4): (9)Florida St.+7, @(5)Clemson+9, (11)Syracuse+16, =(11)Syracuse+4
- Losses to tournament teams (5): @(9)North Carolina St.-11, (1)Virginia-2, @(2)North Carolina-4, @(8)Virginia Tech-1, =(2)North Carolina-5
- Other losses (2): @Boston College-5, @St. John's-4
Overview: Duke is led by four players in double figures, including Marvin Bagley III and the ever-popular Greyson Allen at 15.7. The Blue Devils played two off-the-chart games, the first a 124-67 win over St. Francis and then a 104-40 beatdown of Evansville; in-between, they lost to Boston College. They went 2-1 against 2-seed North Carolina, 0-1 against 1-seed Virginia, and beat 3-seed Michigan State, a team they may face again in the Sweet Sixteen. Duke pulled away from Iona early in the 2nd half an coasted to a 22 point win; Bagley led with 22. He scored 22 again as the Blue Devils routed Rhode Island by 25. Bagley had another 22 against Syracuse.
Game Analysis: Will Duke's amazing new zone defense trip up the Jayhawks? Probably not at all. Kansas has one of the best offenses in the country, and it can more than match up with the Blue Devils. The zone won't bother them any more than Syracuse's zone bothered the Jayhawks when Kansas beat the Orange by 16 in early December. But Kansas' own defense is very suspect, and Duke's offense is top-notch. The problem for Kansas winning this game lies on that side of the court. The Jayhawks also have a bench problem: in the last 2 games they've had 7 and 9 points from their bench. That might finally be an issue against Duke.
Duke by 3 1/2
Power rating: spread
Duke by 3.4
Game-comparisons: % Chance to win
The 2-seed is favored by 3 or 4 over the 1-seed by Vegas; our Strength power rating agrees almost exactly. With lots of volatility between the two teams, Duke only wins 11 out of 20 contests, so it's not a sure thing by any means. And remember Kansas is playing close to home and should have a lot more fans in Omaha. If the Jayhawks were playing at home the game would be a virtual tie—we'd have Duke by 0.08 points, and Kansas winning 53% of the time paradoxically. Let's just say that for all intents and purposes this one is a tossup.
Bottom line: We had Duke in our Final Four from the start, and we're sticking with the Blue Devils. When Kansas loses they tend to lose big, but they've been solid the last six games so we see a close contest, as noted above.
Final prediction: Duke 80, Kansas 78
More previews: click here for the full 2018 NCAA tournament schedule.