The Duke Blue Devils will take on the Troy Trojans in the first round of the 2017 NCAA tournament on Friday.
While miracles, upsets, and Cinderellas tend to be themes of March Madness, no one should expect the big-time upset in this contest.
For starters, Duke, a team that started the 2016-17 college basketball season with the No. 1 ranking in both major polls, holds a No. 2 seed while Troy, a team that enters the dance on a six-game winning streak, holds a No. 15 seed.
With that said, No. 15 seeds have knocked off No. 2 seeds in the past. Look no further than the 2016 NCAA tournament to figure that one out, a tournament that saw No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who are dancing once again this year, knock off No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans. Heck, even the Blue Devils went down to a No. 15 seed in recent memory.
In theory, an upset is possible in this contest. This is March Madness, after all.
However, Duke is arguably the most talented team in the tournament, and this squad is streaking right now.
Just to prove how talented of a team head coach Mike Krzyzewski has on his hands this season, Harry Giles, who was the No. 1-ranked recruit in his class (via ESPN), is only averaging 4.3 points in just 11.9 minutes per game. On any other team in the nation, he would likely be starting, or at least making a bigger impact. Grayson Allen, who was dubbed one of the best players entering 2016-17, and who also put up 21.6 points per game last season, isn’t even the best player on Duke this season. Luke Kennard, who is putting up 20.1 points per contest, and Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 16.9 points per game, have been leading the charge for the Blue Devils this season.
With that in mind, when Allen isn’t making questionable plays (such as trying to trip someone), and also when he is at full strength, he is still one of the best players in the country.
Duke is stacked. There is really no other way to put it. Unfortunately for Troy, and every other team in the bracket, the Blue Devils are playing great ball right now. Not only have they won four games in a row, but they are also coming off of a victory in the ACC tournament championship. On top of that, this squad knocked off three ranked teams (Louisville Cardinals, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish) in a row to close out the ACC tourney.
There is so much that can be said about Duke, whether talking about its up-and-down ways in 2016-17, or the overwhelming amount of talent it has. Let’s talk Troy hoops for a bit, however.
The Trojans have three players who are averaging 12-plus points per game (Jordon Varnado leads the charge with 16.5 points per contest). This is a team that wasn’t even at the top of its conference during the regular season — not even by a long shot. Troy finished with a 10-8 conference record and 22-14 overall record. Of course, all a team needs to do is win its conference tournament and it will clinch a spot in the Big Dance, no matter what its record is, and that is exactly what the Trojans did.
If players like Varnado are stepping up on both sides of the court, and if players like Wesley Person, who is shooting 40 percent from behind the arc, and has made 92 three-points on the season, are making it rain from deep, then Duke could be in trouble.
However, the Blue Devils have their fair share of scorers and talent, so they would need to drop an absolute dud if they are going to be handed the big-time upset.
With the way Duke is playing right now, fans shouldn’t expect a Cinderella to emerge from this 2017 NCAA tournament contest. Of course, stranger things have happened, and March Madness tends to shock the college hoops world early and often.
Still, look for Duke to do some surviving and advancing in this one.
[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]