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March 16, 2014
Duke lands No. 3 seed in Midwest
Heading into Sunday's ACC championship game, Duke had a distant shot at earning a number one seed, and a more legitimate chance of holding down a number two.
With the loss, the Blue Devils slipped a notch, but still picked up a strong No. 3 seed within the NCAA tournament. Duke, who will matchup against Mercer in the second (Duke's first) round of the Midwest Region, won't have an easy go at advancing from round to round.
The Midwest Region is highlighted by three of the four Final Four teams from last season - Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville. That group also consists of the national champion (Louisville) and runner-up (Michigan).
Should Duke advance past Mercer in its opening game, the challenges do not get any easier. The Blue Devils would get the winner of the No. 6 vs. No. 11 seed game - UMass/Iowa or Tennessee.
UMass brings a 24-8 record into the tournament, which includes a 7-4 record against teams selected to the Big Dance.
The Minutemen finished tied for fourth with Dayton in the Atlantic 10 regular season. Despite UMass' strong season output, it lost three of its last five contests.
Should the winner of the play-in game, Iowa or Tennessee knockoff UMass, Duke would still face a difficult challenge in order to make it to the Sweet 16.
Iowa is 20-12 on the season and finished with a .500 record in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes represent one of the teams in question for its ability to make the field. Iowa lost six of its last seven games, including a loss to Northwestern, a team that won just 14 games on the season and six in conference play.
Iowa was 4-8 against teams in the tournament, winning once over Michigan and once against Ohio State.
Tennessee holds a 21-12 overall record and an 11-7 mark in SEC play. The Volunteers finished the season 2-7 against teams appearing in the NCAA's, including three losses to Florida.
The Volunteers split their season record against ACC opponents, losing to NC State, but destroying league champion and No. 1 seed Virginia, 87-52.
If Duke manages to make it to the Sweet 16, the road will get even more challenging. The Blue Devils could face any one of four teams - No. 2 Michigan, No. 7 Texas, No. 10 Arizona State or No. 15 Wofford.
Michigan is the likely opponent in the Sweet 16, as the Wolverines bring in a 25-8 record, and a 15-3 mark in Big Ten play. The Wolverines are coming off a league title game loss to Michigan State.
The Wolverines, however, have enjoyed quite a bit of success against teams in this year's tournament, going 9-6, including a sweep of Ohio State and two wins out of three games against Michigan State.
Duke has faced Michigan once this season, knocking them off 79-69 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 3. The Blue Devils got 24 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds from Quinn Cook, while Jabari Parker posted 15 points and Rodney Hood added 14.
Michigan also lost to Arizona 11 days later.
Should Wofford pull off the upset, Duke would see a team that won the Southern Conference automatic bid and posted a 20-12 overall record. The Terriers are 0-2 against teams in the Tournament.
The Texas Longhorns come in with a 23-10 overall record after finishing tied for third in the Big 12 regular season standings. The Longhorns enter the tournament losers of five out of their last eight games, including a blowout 69-86 defeat at the hands of Baylor in the Big 12 tournament.
Texas met Duke's first opponent, Mercer, in the opening game of the season, winning 76-73. Rick Barnes' Longhorns are 9-9 against teams in the NCAA tournament field, including wins over North Carolina, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor.
If Texas falls in its opening round, the Blue Devils would face Arizona State, who posted a 21-11 overall record on the year.
The Sun Devils enter the tournament with a 4-7 record against teams in the field of 68, however, one of those victories came against the Arizona Wildcats, who ASU split with during the PAC-12 regular season.
ASU also lost to Creighton, as well as twice to Stanford.
If Duke makes it into the Regional Finals, the challenge will most certainly get even more difficult. Duke could face a number of quality opponents, as Wichita State, Louisville, Kentucky and Saint Louis all reside in the top half of the bracket.
Out of the top half of the bracket, Duke has only faced one team this season - NC State.
The Blue Devils are 8-5 this season against teams in the NCAA tournament. Duke has notched wins against Syracuse, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina and UCLA, among others.