The Blue Devils gathered Sunday night at the University Club in Durham for a team dinner and to watch the NCAA tournament selection show. After finishing the regular season ranked No. 1 in strength of schedule and in the RPI, Dukes reward was a No. 2 seed in the bracket with the top overall team.
The Blue Devils quest for the programs fifth title will begin in Philadelphia, where they will play No. 15 Albany (24-10) Friday at 12:15p.m. Should Duke advance, the winner of the Cincinnati-Creighton matchup awaits.
Louisville is the top overall seed in the tournament and the No. 1 in the Midwest region with Duke. The Blue Devils beat Louisville 76-71 on Nov. 24 in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament final (the Cardinals were missing center Gorgui Dieng). Michigan State is the No. 3, and Atlantic 10 champion St. Louis is the No. 4. Potential Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games will be in Indianapolis.
We certainly felt like we were in the discussion (for a No. 1 seed), Ryan Kelly said. At the same time, we didnt finish as regular season champions, and we underperformed in the ACC Tournament. Were happy where were at.
Selection Sunday marked the beginning of the final chapter for the 2012-13 Blue Devils, whom have had a largely successful campaign. Duke, 27-5 overall, has wins over the champion of the Big 10 (Ohio State), Big East (Louisville), Southern Conference (Davidson), Atlantic Sun (Florida Gulf Coast) and the ACC (Miami).
The Blue Devils boast the No. 1 strength of schedule, and, thanks in large part to a 6-1 mark against top 25 PRI teams, the No. 1 spot in the RPI.
Not even Mike Krzyzewski expected to go undefeated through a nonconference schedule that included matchups against three then-top five teams (Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State) and contests against other NCAA tournament-bound teams like Minnesota, VCU and Temple. But Duke was 13-0 heading into ACC Play, and reporters were asking Krzyzewski about the possibility of an undefeated season.
The selection committee, headed by outgoing Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski, clearly wasnt overly impressed. Bobinski said Miami was the No. 5 overall seed, and Duke was right behind them at No 6. Bobinski did mention the importance of a teams road record when discussing bubble teams, and the Blue Devils finished 5-4 in true road games.
Duke didnt leave the best impression with its most recent performance, a lackluster 83-74 loss to Maryland in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. The Blue Devils came out flat, fell behind 12-2 and never caught up to the Terrapins.
We just didnt come out with a level of energy, a level of intensity, Kelly said in the postgame locker room. Against a really good basketball team, youre not going to win a game like that.
If NIT-bound Maryland qualifies as really good in the minds of the Blue Devils, then every team in the NCAA field of 68 fits that description, too.
Seeds, as we learned last year, really dont matter at all, Mason Plumlee said.
Since the disappointing early end in Greensboro, Duke has practiced every day, Kelly said. The arrival of selection Sunday meant that it was officially time to focus on the ultimate goal of every Duke team: a national championship.
Krzyzewski spoke at Countdown to Craziness, Dukes midnight madness, about playing in April. The Blue Devils now know exactly what it will take to make that a reality. Two wins in Philadelphia and two more in Indianapolis, the site of Dukes 2010 national title win, will put Duke in the Final Four in Atlanta, playing in April.
Were excited, Kelly said. Every game is a big game. The way college basketball has played out, there arent any dominant teams. Its been very even. Any team could beat any team.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley