As part of its preview of the Sweet 16, SI.com is taking a look at each of the teams remaining in the NCAA tournament. Adjusted offense and defense statistics—which measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions—are from kenpom.com and the rankings are relative to the other teams still alive. All other advanced stats are also from kenpom.com (unless noted otherwise) and are through March 21.
Record: 23–11 (11–7 ACC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 120.4 (2nd)/100.7 (15th)
Path to the Sweet 16: Beat No. 14 UNC-Wilmington, 93–85; beat No. 12 Yale, 71–64
Impact Player: Brandon Ingram, freshman forward, 22.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 apg through two NCAA tournament games
The Case For: The defending national champion Blue Devils are battle-tested this season. Led by SI second-team All-America guard Grayson Allen and projected top-five NBA draft pick Ingram, Duke bounced back from a three-game skid in January to win five in a row in early February, including two against No. 1 seeds North Carolina and Virginia. The Blue Devils boast the second-most efficient offense in the tournament, thanks to incredible ball movement and unselfish play. The size and versatility of the 6'9" Ingram make him an almost impossible matchup.
Duke proved just how lethal it can be offensively when the trio of Allen, Ingram and Luke Kennard all get hot, scoring 48 points in the first half of their second round game against Yale and putting up 93 against UNC-Wilmington in the first round. In the clutch, Duke also has two free throw shooters it can rely on in Kennard (88.9%) and Allen (84.1%). The player to watch continues to be senior center Marshall Plumlee, who has come alive in the second half of the season, including a career-high 23 points and eight boards in an excellent performance against the Seahawks. When the Blue Devils can feed the post, it opens up their many sharp-shooting guards on the perimeter.
The Case Against: Duke has relied on a seven-man rotation since December, which means tired legs like the ones seen in its ACC tournament loss against Notre Dame and in its narrow victory over Yale in the second round. In a situation reminiscent of their collapse against Notre Dame, the Blue Devils displayed how swiftly they can implode. Duke allowed Yale to go on a 15–0 run to cut a 23-point halftime lead down to seven with more than 10 minutes left. No extra bodies also means foul trouble comes early and often for Duke, especially in the frontcourt.
The team's only big man playing considerable minutes is Plumlee. Freshman Chase Jeter averages just 7.9 minutes per game but with Amile Jefferson officially out for the season with a foot injury, Duke is forced to rely on him for more minutes. Next up for the Blue Devils is sophomore Sean Obi who, before the Notre Dame game, had not seen the floor since January. The lack of big men also makes for a serious problem on the boards. Yale schooled the Blue Devils on the boards by a margin of 42–28. Duke was able to pull down only five offensive rebounds in the contest. Giving up rebounds has led to subpar defense—Duke allows 72.2 points per game.
SI Prediction: Lose to Oregon in the Sweet 16