Scouting Duke: Duke is talented, versatile

2011-03-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:16:21Z Scouting Duke: Duke is talented, versatilePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The Duke Blue Devils added one of the nation's best players and survived a last-second scare.

Most importantly last week, they beat Hampton and Michigan to advance to play the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday in the Sweet 16.

Here's what we learned along the way:

• Irving fits. Guard Kyrie Irving played for the first time since suffering a right foot injury on Dec. 4, scoring a team-high 14 points against Hampton on Friday, then 11 against Michigan on Sunday.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday that Irving, one of the nation's top freshmen, will come off the bench against the Wildcats.

The coach praised Irving's ability to drive to the basket after Sunday's game.

"If he plays the whole year, he might be the best player in college basketball," Krzyzewski said. "So he has a knack for doing that - you know, God-given - and we try not to hold back what God gave him, you know.

"We try to put him in positions where he can use his talents."

Krzyzewski said Irving "has the confidence in his foot."

UA coach Sean Miller, who has studied video of Duke before Irving's injury, as well as last week, said it must be a challenge to incorporate him on a team that "really earned the No. 1 seed almost without" the guard.

"I don't know if there's really been a situation like this very often, when such an elite player misses almost the entire season," Miller said. "He's just an excellent guard."

• They can be versatile. The Blue Devils countered Michigan at times with four guards and forward Ryan Kelly at center. The lineup included Irving, and enabled Duke to guard a smaller Wolverines team.

"You know," Kelly said Sunday, "I'll play whatever position coach asks me to."

Don't be surprised to see Duke go small against Arizona if it struggles to guard the Wildcats.

• They survived. Michigan's Darius Morris missed a runner as time expired Sunday that would have tied the game and forced the Blue Devils into overtime.

Like the Wildcats did twice last week, however, Duke survived.

"Whether or not he got a clean look at it," Kelly said, "we made the stop that mattered."

Arizona knows the feeling.

"It's a relief feeling," guard MoMo Jones said. "At the same time, we understand it's the NCAA tournament, and every game's going to be close."

Miller agreed.

"To advance in the tournament, however you do it, is such a thrill," he said.

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