Duke Blue Devils (27-5) vs. Belmont Bruins (25-8)
Where: Washington, D.C.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS
1. It's Pronounced "SHY-er fah-SAY." Photos of it are center (and roommate) Brian Zoubek's desktop background. "Weird," says guard Gerald Henderson. "It's just weird." They're referring, of course, to the infamous (Jon) Scheyer Face, found on the mug of Duke's sixth man. Judging only by his expressions, Scheyer passes a basketball like Al Swearengen passes his kidney stones. Still, at least he always looks like he's trying out there. Scheyerfacing is a fond pastime of opposing ACC fans, largely because PhotoShop doesn't require basic literacy to use. Two of my personal favorites are here. In other news referencing famous pictures of Duke hoopsters, here's your annual Reggie Love update.
2. How's That Working Out For You? Are you a fan of the Idaho Stampede? By gum, you ought to be! They're having a great season, leading their division in the NBA's D-League over such luminaries as the Los Angeles D-Fenders and the Bakersfield Jam. They've got Brent "Air Georgia" Petway. Their dance team has, I have to assume, some of the hottest girls in The Gem State (this is my only point of comparison). Most important, they've provided former McDonald's All-American POTY and current stiff Josh McRoberts with more playing time than he's had on his nominal NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers. (I found this fact listed under the "Charitable Works" portion of their webpage.) Josh got his $400K salary, the Blazers got a valuable 2 points per game (lookin' good, J-Mac!), and Duke's leaps and bounds better than it was last year, when it spent most of the season slowly collapsing, like a flan in the cupboard. (Not my joke.) I believe a true teacher, a coach, a leader who just happens to be a manager, calls that a "win-win-win."
3. Running With The... You Know. The last couple years I've avoided citing actual "basketball" "facts," partially because my knowledge of hoops theory is lacking (I think turnovers are first and foremost a tasty dessert) but mostly because most Duke teams of the Coach K Era have been struck from the same mold: saunter casually up the court, swing a couple of cursory passes, then get it in to Brand/Boozer/Williams or out to Laettner/Dunleavy/Redick. You might be surprised to hear that they're actually running this year. A lot. Over 75 possessions a game (thanks KenPom) puts them in the top 10 for tempo nationwide. Frosh Kyle Singler is effective anywhere on the court, Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson are providing blow-by speed inside, and most importantly, Greg Paulus has reduced his TOs from 3.2 a game his first two seasons to 1.7 this year. All of these numbers likely won't change your frothing hatred (especially if you're from Chapel Hill, College Park, Lexington or, uh, anywhere that's not Durham) but it's worth noting as you fill your bracket: even though Duke's a donut this year, it's one of those high-class fancy donuts. A cruller, maybe. That likes to play up-tempo. See why I don't do analysis?
EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS FACT BROUGHT TO YOU BY MIKE PATRICK: Did you know Greg Paulus was a high school quarterback? It's true! A quarterback! In high school! How wild is that? I hear he threw for like, four hundred thousand yards. Player of the decade. Crazy! Quarterback quarterback quarterback quarterback quarterback. — Matt DeTura
1. Wait... The Atlantic Sun is Perhaps Not A Powerhouse Conference? Belmont has ranked in the top 10 nationally in three-point field goals per game seven of the last 10 years. The Bruins are fourth this year at 10.6 three-pointers per game. HOWEVUH, when it mattered (in their NCAA appearances the last two seasons), they shot 6-26 (.231) against Georgetown and 4-19 (.211) against UCLA. No. 2 seeds nationwide should be licking their chops for the Bruins and their good karma, as their first round competition went on to win their region the last two years. So try not to screw up all that momentum, Team That Gets Belmont This Year.
2. Dick Vitale is Shopping For A Bear Suit As We Speak. Bruins head coach Rick Byrd, associate head coach Casey Alexander, assistant coach Brian Ayers and assistant coach Roger Idstrom have been together for eight years now, which makes them tied for the longest tenured coaching staff (head coach and top three assistants) in the country. And what other tiny school are they tied with? Duke head coach Mike Kryzyzewski, associate head coach Johnny Dawkins, assistant coach Chris Collins and assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski (Wojo!) have also been together eight years as a staff.
3. Too Bad D-1 Schools Don't Have Varsity Kickball Programs. Sophomore Stefan Baskin spent his freshman year as an average everyday student at the University of Tennessee. He didn't play for Bruce Pearl and the Vols though. Like most freshman he was just hanging out, doing the whole traveling motivational speaker thing. However, in his spare time he was wining the intramural 3-on-3 hoops championship at UT. Now he's a non-scholarship player at Belmont and going to the tourney. A quick reminder to all: Please remember this is not normal and to keep laughing at people who take intramurals too seriously. — Sager Bombs