Blue Devils looking forward to blue blood showdown in Elite Eight
photo by: Nick Krug
Omaha, Neb. — As the final minutes ticked off the clock in the Kansas basketball team’s 80-76 victory over Clemson in the Sweet 16 on Friday, Duke players stood in a tunnel waiting for their chance to take the floor in the following game.
The Blue Devils were behind a curtain so they couldn’t see the court or much of the video board. They heard the cheers and groans as the Jayhawks saw their 20-point lead drop into single digits, but really only knew the final result.
Focused on Syracuse, before their eventual 69-65 win at CenturyLink Center, Duke players said they needed to watch film in their hotel before they could give much of a scouting report of Kansas. But they are plenty familiar with their Elite Eight opponent.
Many of them were recruited by both schools. They’ve played against each other in AAU. Duke freshman point guard Trevon Duval took one of his official visits to Allen Fieldhouse. Plus, they saw each other earlier this season at the Champions Classic despite playing different teams.
“Great shooting team. Very feisty and very hungry,” said Duke freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. “They are going to come out here and play great defense. And they run the floor. That’s really all I know about them.”
Duval, who had two points and four assists vs. Syracuse, considered playing alongside Devonte’ Graham and Malik Newman during his recruitment. He met most of KU’s players during his visit and he played with KU freshman Silvio De Sousa at IMG Academy in Florida last year.
Now he has a chance to line up against them for a spot in the Final Four.
“Devonte’, he’s been winning and nominated for a lot of awards,” Duval said. “They have great shooters and a really good big guy, Udoka (Azubuike). They are a really good team. We have to go back to the hotel, do our scout and then see what we can do to beat them.”
It’ll be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2016 Champions Classic in New York, which ended with a game-winning shot from Frank Mason III. Grayson Allen was limited to 12 points (4 of 15 shooting) in 38 minutes.
Both teams have a much different look than their last matchup. Duke features its latest crop of one-and-done NBA prospects. For Kansas, Azubuike was just playing in his second collegiate game and Newman was sitting out the season as a redshirt.
“They are in the Elite Eight for a reason,” Duke sophomore center Marques Bolden said. “We just know they are a real tough and physical team, and we look forward to the matchup.”
At this point in the tournament, teams expect to play the best players and teams in the country. Looking ahead to potentially matching up against Graham, Duval said it will be “pretty cool” to play the Big 12 player of the year.
“It’s another time for me to prove myself and for our team to prove ourselves also,” Duval said. “It’s just another opportunity.”