Duke Basketball: Blue Devils Set to Battle Rams in Round of 32

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Grayson Allen
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Grayson Allen /

The Duke Blue Devils will square off against the Rhode Island Rams in Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Devils thrashed Iona in the First Round, while Rhode Island needed overtime to get past Trae Young and the Oklahoma Sooners.

After losing their final two games of the regular season to St. Joesph’s and Davidson, the Rams seemed to regain their footing in defeating VCU and St. Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, but then suffered a tough defeat at the hands of Davidson in the A-10 Championship Game.

The Rams are a veteran group, led by seniors E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell. Both players average double digits, Terrell with 17.0 and Matthews adding 13.2.

Rhode Island isn’t a big team, which hurts against a team like Duke.

The tallest players that receive substantial minutes for Rhode Island are 6’8″, Cyril Langevine and Andre Berry.

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With Duke having the clear size advantage inside, you should see a heavy dosage of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr.

Carter Jr. told the assembled media after the win over Iona that he is dealing with a sore Achilles. It looks like Carter has been practicing and will be in the lineup as usual on Saturday.

Oklahoma junior Jamuni McNeace came into the First Round matchup with Oklahoma averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Listed as 6’10”, McNeace had the clear size advantage down low and he put up 14 points and 10 rebounds against the Rams.

McNeace is obviously not as offensive gifted as Bagley and Carter, so I expect both of them to have big days.

After struggling defensively in the first half against Iona, the Blue Devils switched from a 2-3 zone to a 3-2 zone and the changed worked. Iona struggled mightily from the outside in the final 20 minutes.

Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley said that the Rams will try and spread Duke’s zone out and take a lot of three-pointers. Rhode Island is a 35.2% three-point shooting team, which their best outside shooter being Terrell at 42%.

Duke could quickly go back to the 3-2 zone if Rhode Island gets hot from the outside early in the first half.

Transition defense will be key for the Blue Devils, as they looked just a step slow against Iona. Rhode Island will be hungry, intense, and physical for the full 40 minutes in trying to pull off the upset.

This Rhode Island team draws some similarities to last years South Carolina team, an experience the Blue Devils are trying not to go through again.

Duke will need to put together a full 40 minutes to knock off Rhode Island, and if they get up double figures early, they must keep their foot on the gas and not let Rhode Island creep back into the game.

Prediction: Duke 76 Rhode Island 68