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NCAA tournament team previews: Duke Blue Devils

Jabari ParkerJabari Parker turned out to be as good as advertised in his freshman season at Duke. The NCAA tournament is likely the end of his career as a Blue Devil. (Raleigh News & Observer via Getty)

As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. For more teams, click here.

Record: 26-8, 13-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference

RPI/SOS: 8/6

Adj. Offense/Adj. Defense: 124.5 (2nd)/101.3 (101st)

Seed: No. 3 in Midwest

Impact player: Jabari Parker, freshman forward. 19.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 112.9 offensive rating.

The Case For:

Duke’s offense is one of the most efficient of the past decade. The Blue Devils have scored an average of 1.246 points per possession, second only to Creighton. In ACC play, Jabari Parker and Co. have poured in 1.19 PPP, the best in the conference by a wide margin (Virginia, at 1.12 PPP, is second). Parker is Duke’s main offensive threat, but as SI’s Jeff Benedict pointed out in a recent column, sophomore forward Rodney Hood would be the top option on almost any other team in the country. Though Hood has used fewer possessions and taken a lower percentage of shots during his minutes than Parker has, the Mississippi State transfer is averaging 16.5 points per game and posted the highest offensive rating, 121.4, among teammates classified by Kenpom.com as “significant contributors” (in numerical terms: using between 20 and 24 percent of available possessions). In short, Duke is going to score. Any teams with designs on an upset is going to need to put up plenty of points just to keep up.

The Case Against:

Sure, Duke can score, but can the Blue Devils stop anyone? Duke’s defense falls just inside the nation’s top 100 in points allowed per possession, but the Blue Devils are deficient at defending inside the arc. They allow opponents to shoot 50.1 percent on their twos this season and have only blocked 7.5 percent of opponents' shots blocked (261st in the country). Duke has also struggled to protect its own glass, as ACC opponents have rebounded 33.8 percent of their misses, the second highest percentage in the conference. A team with long, skilled big men could exploit the Devils' soft defensive interior. They have also suffered a few head-scratching upsets this season, notably to Notre Dame, Clemson and Wake Forest. Those outcomes should give any underdog Duke faces confidence that it can not only push the Blue Devils, but beat them.

SI Prediction: Beat Mercer in second round, beat Tennessee in third round, beat Michigan in Sweet 16, lose to Wichita State in Elite 8

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts

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