The No. 2 seed Duke Blue Devils (26-7) take on the No. 15 seed Iona Gaels (20-13) in the First Round of the Midwest Region. The game will be played at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Thursday, March 15. Tip-off time is approximately 2:45 p.m ET.
Preview: The Blue Devils had some major hiccups this season, but are one of the most talented teams in the country. Center Marvin Bagley has been a dominant force when healthy, while Wendell Carter and senior guard Grayson Allen upped their games while he was out late in the regular season.
Duke started the year as an elite offensive team with major holes at the other end. However, they have somewhat quietly become quite strong on defense as well
Per KenPom, Duke has the No. 3 offensive efficiency in the country. The defense has worked its way up to No. 7 per the efficiency metric, in large part because Mike Krzyzewski has relied heavily on a 2-3 Zone.
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 11, 2018
Iona earned its 13th NCAA Tournament bid, and third in a row. The Gaels knocked off Fairfield in the MAAC final, 83-71, to earn the bid.
Date: Thursday, March 15
Time: ~ 2:45 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner, Dana Jacobson
Opening Betting Line: Duke -20, via 5Dimes
This is Duke’s 42nd NCAA Tournament appearance, and the 34th under Mike Krzyzewski. Duke is in the field for the 23rd year in a row.
Duke has made 29 Sweet 16s and 20 Elite Eights, with the last one coming in 2015. That year, Duke made a run to the national championship, its fifth in school history.
Iona is heading to its 13th NCAA Tournament. The school is 1-12 all-time in the tournament, with the sole win coming against Holy Cross in 1980.
Prediction: Duke may have lost to North Carolina in the ACC Semifinal on Friday night, but this is a team playing very well, late. The Blue Devils may have found something when Bagley was out, and if it can play its best defense down the stretch, Duke will be a tough out.
Talent often wins out in March as well, and Duke may have the most talented team in the country. Don’t discount the impact of a senior leader like Grayson Allen, who was perhaps the best player the night that Duke won its last title.
Duke does have a recent history of some early exits. However, this Iona team snuck into the tournament, and isn’t as good as some Gaels squads of recent vintage. Duke wins.