#2 DUKE vs #15 TROY
Duke got punched in the mouth (or nose, if you're Luke Kennard), but they are too good to be a one-and-done this season. The Blue Devils won by 22, but it didn't feel like a dominating performance.
At the 15-minute mark of the 2nd half, Duke had a 12-point lead despite being out-rebounded by the Trojans, Troy shooting 50% from the field, and the boys from Alabama hitting all of their free ones. Duke was just too much on the defensive end. They forced 17 turnovers, turning those into 25 points.
Can Duke shoot? Well, it's Duke. Yes. A baker's dozen 3-pointers also sunk the Trojans. When Duke is hitting 46% from behind the arc, they are tough to beat.
Things got real shaky in the 2nd half when Duke went over six minutes without hitting a shot from the floor. Any other team probably would have been able to take advantage and make it a game, but Troy was just incapable.
As I write this, Coach K is 20 feet away talking about how hard his boys played, saying "we had to play hard to win this one." Indeed they did. I came into the tournament thinking this Duke team can win a national title. If they play D like that every night, it can happen.
On watching game 2, featuring Marquette, Coach K says "Wojo" is like a son and hopes the Eagles "do great." If Marquette can beat South Carolina, the student (Steve Wojciechowski) faces the master (Mike Krzyzewski), in what will undoubtedly be the biggest match-up in American history between coaches whose names are hardest to spell.
DUKE 87 TROY 65
#7 SOUTH CAROLINA vs #10 MARQUETTE
It was the blowout nobody saw coming. Marquette led 40-39 at the half, but the Gamecocks found the weakness in the Eagle zone defense and exploited it with perfection in the 2nd half. The Cocks bullied Marquette inside, scoring 42 of their 93 in the paint, and much of the rest on floaters just outside the paint.
Just like Duke did to Troy, South Carolina turned a ton of Marquette mistakes into a ton of points. 25 points came off 18 Eagle turnovers.
UNC Asheville transfer Andrew Rowsey ended up with 13 points for Marquette. After a hot start to the game, he was just 3 for 9 from the floor.
It was as close to a home game as anyone will get in the NCAA tournament. South Carolina's "fortunate" placement in the Greenville bracket made for an uncomfortable setting for the Eagles. It will be equally so for Sunday's match-up with Duke. Not only will the Blue Devils have to deal with the Gamecock fans, but the fans of the real Carolina rooting against them, too.
SOUTH CAROLINA 93 MARQUETTE 73