Duke is stepping into the ACC title game and is primed to be a popular NCAA tournament dark horse

Duke forward Mark Mitchell (25) celebrates late in the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against Miami at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Greensboro, NC, Friday March 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Duke and Mark Mitchell have won eight straight games en route to the ACC Tournament title game. (AP/Chuck Burton)

Duke looks like a popular choice to make it to the Sweet 16 and beyond in many people’s brackets.

The ACC tournament favorites advanced to the conference title game on Friday night with an 85-78 win over No. 1 Miami. Duke started as the No. 4 after finishing a game behind the Hurricanes in the ACC rating.

Duke earned at least 13 points from four of his five starters and freshman reserve Daria Whitehead scored 16 as the Blue Devils held the Hurricanes at bay in the second half. Duke will play Virginia in the title game of Saturday’s ACC tournament. Virginia rolled over Clemson 76-56 in the other semifinal game later Friday night.

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Duke’s presence in the title game comes as no surprise; The Blue Devils were the betting favorite to win the ACC tournament, and for good reason. But a big part of that reason was the popularity of the Blue Devils. And that popularity coupled with Duke’s recent run and probably somewhere as a No. 4 or No. 5 seed will make it a trending choice to go deep into the NCAA tournament.

It wasn’t a good start to Jon Scheyer’s first season as Duke’s coach after taking over from Mike Krzyzewski. Duke lost by double figures to Wake Forest and NC State before losing to Clemson by three points to drop to 4-3 in the ACC. And back-to-back losses to Miami and Virginia at one point dropped Duke to 8-6 in conference play. That defeat in Miami was also brutal. Duke lost by 23 points and was uncompetitive throughout the game.

However, things have improved since that loss in Virginia. Duke is entering the ACC title game on an eight-game winning streak and could enter the NCAA tournament on a nine-game winning streak with a win Saturday. A hot, well-known team that isn’t seeded in the top three is an enticing option for many tournament pool participants.

But there are a few reasons to be wary of pushing Duke too. Miami was the first ranked team to beat Duke on their winning streak, and the Blue Devils are an extremely young team. Despite being particularly talented — Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski and Dereck Lively are all top 40 picks in Krysten Peek’s latest mock draft — juveniles can show up at NCAA tournaments at awkward times. Last season’s Final Four appearance was Duke’s first since the team won it all in 2015.

https://sports.yahoo.com/duke-enters-the-acc-title-game-primed-to-be-a-popular-ncaa-tournament-dark-horse-030145027.html?src=rss Duke is stepping into the ACC title game and is primed to be a popular NCAA tournament dark horse


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