There's no such thing as an upset—unless the Blue Devils are beat. No high-fiving announcers and getting mobbed at press conferences like the kids at Florida Gulf Coast. No need to call the school's only active NBA alumn for instant reaction like at Harvard.
Sure, putting the madness in March can be a blast.
But those moments—and wins—are often fleeting and rarely lead to a Final Four, much less a national championship. So let the underdogs have their day and soak in the national spotlight. Amid a tournament of upsets, the Blue Devils expect to savor the tournament on that second Monday night in April.
"It's not like because we're at Duke, we aren't allowed to experience that feeling," Duke forward Mason Plumlee said. "It just comes with higher stakes."
Plumlee is one of the few Blue Devils to experience the high of a national championship and the low of the unexpected exit. He was a freshman when Duke won the national championship in 2010 and a junior when the Blue Devils lost as a No. 2 seed to Lehigh lost season.
The second-seeded Blue Devils (28-5) put that first-game exit behind them when they beat Albany. They have a deeper run in mind and need to get past seventh-seeded Creighton (28-7) on Sunday in the Midwest Regional.
The Blue Devils haven't advanced past the round of 16 since coach Mike Krzyzewksi won his fourth national championship in 2010.
A win on Sunday would barely cause a ripple in Durham, N.C. The Crazies can start to go crazy next weekend, and beyond.
But at Creighton, a win could send the campus into a frenzy. The Bluejays haven't advanced to a regional semifinal since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. For the second straight year, they're on the cusp of getting there. North Carolina spoiled their run last season. Now, another ACC team looks to send All-American Doug McDermott and Co. home.
McDermott scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and made all 11 free throws to help Creighton beat Cincinnati 67-63 on Friday. Just in case he'd gone unnoticed playing in the heartland, McDermott put on quite on a show. He even impressed Krzyzewksi, who overlooked McDermott when he recruited his high school teammate in Iowa, Harrison Barnes. Barnes went to North Carolina and plays now for the Golden State Warriors. McDermott committed to Northern Iowa before following his dad, Greg, to his latest coaching stop at Creighton.
"McDermott is such a beautiful player," Krzyzewksi said. "He's really one of the best offensive players I've seen in the last decade in college basketball."
High praise from a coach who had J.J. Redick, Jason Williams and Kyrie Irving over that span.
But McDermott has earned it. He ranks behind only Oscar Robinson (Cincinnati) and Larry Bird (Indiana State) on most Missouri Valley Conference single-season or career scoring records. McDermott, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, averages 20.1 points, a team-best 7.7 rebounds and has NBA scouts at every game trying to figure out how he'll fit at the next level.
Maybe Duke can snag a report from Plumlee or forward Ryan Kelly. McDermott and Kelly were roommates last summer at the Amare Stoudemire Big Man Camp in Chicago. McDermott and Plumlee were teammates at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas last summer.
"Ryan was a great roommate," McDermott said. "He always reminded me what time we had to be down in the lobby, what time we had to leave. So he was good for that. I got a chance to pick his brain a little bit because we kind of play similar."
Kelly, Plumlee, Seth Curry from the outside. Throw in Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon and the Blue Devils boast a huge edge in depth.
Kelly could be the difference for the Blue Devils. Duke was unbeaten with nonconference wins against Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State when Kelly suffered a right foot injury against Clemson in January.
It was during Kelly's absence that Duke suffered 27-point loss at Miami on Jan. 23, a game that saw the Hurricanes romping unchecked through Duke's passive defense. The Blue Devils got back on course and lost only once since he returned. Kelly has the shooting range to stretch defenses away from Plumlee inside or to open driving lanes for Cook while also giving Curry some help on the perimeter.
McDermott has Gregory Echenicque (10.0 pgg, 6.6 rpg) and not much else offensively on a regular basis.
Krzyzewksi suggested fans go search for his highlights on YouTube.
He also had some fun with the McDermott-McDermott connection that had the Bluejays flying high this season.
"The guy who coaches him seems to have a really close relationship with him," he said, smiling. "It's like his father. I wish I could develop that. They look like father and son. I wish I could have that type of relationship with my guys. I admire what they do."
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