Duke’s run to the ACC tournament championship certainly moved the Blue Devils up the NCAA tournament seed line but not all the way to the top.
The Blue Devils, after beating Notre Dame 75-69 to win the ACC title on Saturday, were given a No. 2 seed for the NCAA tournament’s East Region and will open play against No. 15 seed Troy at Greenville, S.C., on Friday.
The Blue Devils (27-8) enter the NCAA tournament on an emotional high after beating three ranked teams to win their 20th ACC tournament championship. Duke also became the first team to win four games in four days to win the league tournament.
Duke finds itself in the same region as last year’s NCAA champion, Villanova. The Wildcats, after winning the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, are the East’s No. 1 seed.
The East Region games in the tournament’s second weekend will be played at Madison Square Garden.
Duke’s case for one of the tournament’s best seeds came on the strength of its schedule which included 12 wins over teams rated in the RPI’s top 50. Duke has played 18 games against teams in that group this season, losing only six. Top 50 opponents account for more than half of the Blue Devils’ entire schedule.
Eight of Duke’s wins came against teams in the RPI top 25, including two wins each over North Carolina and Notre Dame, plus single victories against Florida State, Louisville, Florida and Virginia.
The only team with as many top 50 wins as Duke is Villanova, which went 12-2 against that group. UNC and Florida State both have 11 while Butler has 10.
After Duke beat Notre Dame Saturday in Brooklyn, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski talked about all the team had been through -- with a lineup in flux and other distractions -- to reach the NCAA tournament.
“We were hurt -- a back operation, and they had bad feet,” Krzyzewski said. “It wasn’t about attitude. It was about -- you know, the garage burned down. Things happened to our family, and we never let that stop us.
“We haven’t paid any attention to standings or seeds for this tournament or rankings. We just haven’t -- we haven’t talked at all about that because so much has happened. We just said let’s talk about us and let’s get better. It’s worked.”
If Duke beats Troy (22-14), the Sun Belt Conference champion, the Blue Devils will face either No. 7 seed South Carolina (22-10) or No. 10 seed Marquette (19-12) in Sunday’s second-round game.
Both opponents offer interesting potential storylines.
South Carolina is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 and the Gamecocks haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1973, quite the contrast from Duke’s lineage of five NCAA championships since 1991.
Of course, Duke would be facing South Carolina in the Gamecocks’ home state about a two-hour drive from their campus in Columbia.
Marquette is coached by former Duke player and assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski, who has the Golden Eagles in the tournament for the first time since he became their head coach in 2014.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Troy
NCAA East Region
Where: Greenville, S.C.