The obvious news is that Duke breezed through their first-round match up against Hampton, 87-45. The game was never in any doubt, as Duke opened up on a 16-4 run and never looked back.
The more important story was the return of freshman Kyrie Irving.
The point guard came off the bench and totaled 20 minutes, much of it in the second half. He looked rusty at first, a bit hesitant. He turned it over early on a charge call and failed to hit a basket in the first half.
In the second half, Coach K made a decision to basically let him get his legs under him with the second team, subbing in a full-five. At first I was against this strategy. I thought it would be better if Irving was able to work with Smith and Singler. However, I’m a man and I can admit I was wrong.
The beauty of this strategy was it allowed the team (on the floor) to be his team, without stressing about whether Singler and Smith got their touches. Irving was able to really let loose. He scored on two great drives and nailed both his three pointers.
There is no doubt the toe is not effecting his speed. It did appear he was favoring his right foot a little, mostly when landing, but that’s a natural adjustment he has to make right now, then so be it. It clearly didn’t effect his shot and his ability to drive.
I would expect to have him play another 20 minutes against Michigan, but spend more time on the floor with the first team.
Of course, this game wasn’t all about Irving. Duke was successful in the ACC Tournament because so many other players stepped up their games. This continued in the NCAA first-round.
Hampton’s front court was no match for Duke’s size. The Blue Devils out-rebounded the Pirates 36-25. Miles Plumlee continues his imitation of Brian Zoubek. He grabbed 10 boards in the first half alone, finishing with 13. Mason and Miles also shot well, hitting 8-11 from the floor.
Now obvious when Duke is playing a 16-seed like Hampton, it isn’t easy to judge a team’s performance. I was happy with the way they came out. The Blue Devils looked motivated and were not going to let Hampton hang around, even for a minute.
The 42-point margin of victory was nice and important. I don’t have the exact stat, but top seeds who win by 35 or more in their first-round games end up going to the Final Four almost 70-percent of the time. For teams that don’t, that percentage drops below 40-percent.
FAVORITE HEADLINE (From ESPN):
Blue Devils end Pirates’ five-game win streak
Really, that’s the deadline? Did anyone in America even know Hampton was on a five-game winning streak?