So the Kyrie experience went better than any and everyone expected, including Sir Charles Barkley himself…even though he might not want to admit it.
It may have taken Irving a little while to get used to playing with his fellow Blue Devils again, but once he did, it was the same ol’ amazingly tantalizing future lottery pick Kyrie. After scoring a team-high 14 points in the first round, er, second round win over Hampton, Kyrie is well settled into being comfortable and past what he described as “the most nervous I’ve ever been.”
First, the numbers.
It will be Coach K’s 101st NCAA tournament game. And it will be an opportunity for Coach K to join his mentor, Bob Knight, as the only Division I men’s coaches with 900 career victories.
A win over the Wolverines (21-13) would send Duke to the regional semifinals for the 20th time in 26 years and make Krzyzewski, who is 899-283 in his 36-year career, the second Division I men’s coach with 900 victories.
To do that, Duke will have to beat a Michigan team that seemingly is back to being a program it used to be when the group that coined itself the “Fab Five” played for it back in the early 1990′s. One member of that group, Jalen Rose, made headlines earlier this week after he essentially stood up for comments he made in the documentary called “The Fab Five” that labeled African-American players who were recruited by Duke as “Uncle Toms.”
So while the previous meetings with Michigan in this most recent decade carried with them far less fanfare because of the Wolverines’ struggles to find themselves as a legitimate program again, this contest obviously has more attention.
Since 2007, the schools have played each other three times with Duke winning the first two matchups in blowout fashion. But the second time that Duke faced Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Wolverines — executing coach John Beilein’s 1-3-1 defense and weaving offense to near-perfection — beat the Blue Devils in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The only Michigan player to have a significant role in that game, senior Zack Novak, is now the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Duke have three players from that season’s team — Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Miles Plumlee — although Plumlee played sparingly that year while Smith and Singler were stars in the making.
Novak has been the leader in the Wolverines’ resurgence and played a huge role in Michigan’s 75-45 dismantling of Tennessee in the second round of the tournament with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
All this being said, I can’t see Michigan doing much with Duke. Yes, I believe they will compete because they’ve done so against plenty of tournament teams this season, including a 53-50 loss to Syracuse, a 69-60 win at Clemson, a 69-51 win over Oakland, a 67-60 loss to Kansas and two close losses to Ohio State.
But Duke is bigger than Michigan inside with the Wolverines starting just one player 6-foot-8 or over. Duke is more experienced with Smith and Singler. And now they’re more crafty with Irving back at a level that’s close to full strength.
About the Author
Written by Chris Girandola
I currently write for the St. Petersburg Times, MLB.com, the Naples News, Demand Studios, LiveStrong, Fuel Football, Fuel Basketball and Fuel Football.