Duke fans like what they see

UNC point guard Joel Berry II left for the locker room briefly in the second half with an ankle injury, but returned minutes later.

Let's settle the age-old question of March Madness.

Despite a slight snowfall, some fans still drove to watch the game on large televisions in such Hendersonville hot spots as Hannah Flanagan's and The Dugout Sports Bar and Grill. Kentucky is nearly always in the national championship conversation. The top four ranked teams last week were Kansas, reigning champ Villanova, UCLA and upstart Gonzaga. The Blue Devils beat Hampton 72-37 in 2010 and 67-51 in 2013.

Luke Kennard warmed up Friday night for second-seeded Duke's first-round NCAA tournament game against Troy with several recognizable faces around him, including teammates Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum. The ceiling is the roof for this Tar Heels team. The athletic St. Louis native averages 16 points, and 7.3 boards.

For the next three weeks, you will hear the terms "bracket" and "cinderella" more than you would, collectively, for the next 11 months. "We lose three seniors, but we're a pretty deep team and guys are ready to step in". Senior Amile Jefferson scored 14. Many people say Kennard is Duke's best player, but it's the two of them combined with Allen that makes this team unsafe.

Seton Hall responded by tying the game at 41 on Madison Jones' free throw, and they took the lead on Khadeen Carrington's three-pointer, giving them a 44-41 lead.

Tatum told media that defense was the best facet of all, in the title victory. Baylor held the Aggies to 37 percent shooting in the second half.

The Blue Devils are 5-4 ATS this season when favored by 20 points or more, and that's tough to do. Even though Duke was put in the same bracket as the No. 1 overall seeded Villanova Wildcats, Duke will advance to the Final Four out of the East and head to Phoenix en route to its sixth national title in program history. Duke withstood a ferocious Clemson comeback in its opener, to win by seven. The Blue Devils haven't played since March 5 when they lost to Notre Dame 81-63 in the ACC Tournament championship game at Conway, South Carolina.

Duke outscored Carolina 51-34 in the second half and wrapped up the final 12:33 of regulation on a 42-22 run. SC and Marquette fans were trickling in for their first-round matchup, and there was only one person that got boos. Coach K said "it's not just winning four".

Outscoring arch-rival Tar Heels was a treat, in a semifinal. Allen, partly due to health, has gotten used to coming off the bench, thanks to the improved play of freshman Frank Jackson, and being a facilitator. Without Boucher, the Ducks will have to lean even more on Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks to shoulder the load for a team who some pundits consider the favorites to win the whole shebang. Louisville led by double digits most of the rest of the game.

With the offense rolling, Duke committed on defense. "And every day being so unconventional, we had to learn how to adjust". He reached the Final Four 12 times in 32 tries. He made the trey, and as he landed back on the floor and as the Duke crowd cheered to shield the boos, Troy's Wesley Person had fallen at Allen's feet near his landing spot. The streaky Devils were preseason number one, but stumbled to a 3-4 ACC start with Coach K missing seven games following back surgery. "'We can score at a high rate, so it's not too many teams out there that can match that". K suspended Allen for repeatedly tripping foes.

Take the Blue Devils' 11-3 record since Coach K's return. If I can put all three of them together and have one player at the end, I wouldn't be that anxious. That then likely pitts SMU versus Duke in the Sweet Sixteen.

Look at North Carolina, where an academic fraud scandal continues to percolate. The young Devils have less depth, and six freshmen and five sophs among 16 on varsity. Don't sleep on the Florida State Seminoles as the third seed, either. It's about the heart that you have and the passion that you played the game with.

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