Duke's Coach K on Kansas: 'It is great when you have two programs of this nature....play for a Final Four berth'
No. 1 seed Kansas poses a different set of problems than No. 2 Duke had when it faced No. 11 seed Syracuse on Friday.
Duke and Kansas meet in the Elite Eight on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio on the line. Duke beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16, 69-65. The Blue Devils held on in that game, which remained close throughout, and came down to the final few seconds.
Syracuse had the tallest team in the country, according to KenPom.com, so it's length was a strength. Kansas has height too in 7-foot, 280-pound center, Udoka Azubuike, but it likes to utilize a four-guard lineup.
Here are three keys to the game:
Limit Kansas' 3-point shots
Kansas makes 10 3's per game and is ranked No. 10 in the country in 3-point percentage. It hits 40.5 percent of its 3's per game. Contesting shots will be key for Duke, or Kansas could run away with it.
Duke runs a zone and has defended the 3 well so far this tournament. Syracuse shot 4-for-13 from behind the arc on Friday. Rhode Island was 7-for-19, and Iona was 5-for-24.
But Duke has had a tendency to leave shooters open. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, opponents just haven't knocked them down.
Duke freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. said he and his teammates have to stay active.
"You're going to have to communicate, going to have talk in the zone," Trent said. "We'll have to move around. We can't stay still. We have to move fast."
One of the biggest reasons Duke won the close game against Syracuse was that it didn't turn the ball over. Duke had only seven turnovers against a good Syracuse zone defense.
That gave Duke more opportunities to score. Turnovers have been a struggle for Duke this season, particularly silly ones, and have at times caused Duke to lose tight games.
Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Feb. 26 and Virginia in Durham on Jan. 27 are two prime examples. Turnovers at the end of games caused Duke to lose by two points or less in those games.
Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval must take care of the basketball. He said the coaching staff has emphasized to him that he needs to stay sharp.
"Because when I'm sharp, that's when I'm at my best," Duval said.
Take advantage of size
Duke has its advantages too, particularly on the inside with Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. Kansas likes to utilize a four-guard lineup. Azubuike will be guarding one or the other, meaning a Kansas guard with have to guard the other Duke forward. Opposing forwards have struggled guarding Carter and Bagley.
If the Blue Devils can get Azubuike, who is a force inside, in foul trouble that would bode well for them. He is the team's leading rebounder (7.0 rpg), and has a 77 percent field goal percentage. Kansas would likely be in trouble without him.
Kansas coach Bill Self didn't seem worried though.
When asked how difficult it is to stop Bagley, Self fired back, "Have you not seen how big Svi is?" Self was talking about 6-8, 205-pound junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who averages 14.8 points per game.
"They've got great players," Self said. "And who knows, they may have five first-round draft picks. Could have the number one pick. Definitely a couple of lottery picks. But you know we've got good players too. And the thing about it is sometimes I think when you play somebody like that, if you play them and you know you can't matchup up physically, the scales definitely tip to them.
"We don't play like them. We play different. So if we play our game -- and everybody's talking about how do we matchup up with them -- well, hopefully we can be in a game that forces them to kind of play a little differently to matchup up with us."