Duke's Marvin Bagley III (35) scores with a second half dunk. Bagley led the Blue Devils with 21 points. Duke defeated UNC 74-64 at Cameron Indoor Stadium In Durham, N.C. Saturday, March 3, 2018. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com
Duke's Marvin Bagley III (35) scores with a second half dunk. Bagley led the Blue Devils with 21 points. Duke defeated UNC 74-64 at Cameron Indoor Stadium In Durham, N.C. Saturday, March 3, 2018. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com


A look at Duke's potential path to the ACC championship game

By Jonathan M. Alexander


March 06, 2018 03:57 PM


The good news for Duke as it heads into the ACC tournament, is that it will only need to win two games to get to the championship.

Duke, a No. 2 seed, has a double-bye and will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 7 p.m. A 74-64 win against No. 9 North Carolina on March 3 solidified that seed.

Duke's possible path to the ACC tournament championship game won't be easy, however. In the quarterfinals, Duke could meet 10th seeded Notre Dame, which got its star forward Bonzie Colson back after he missed eight weeks with a broken foot.

Colson won ACC Player of the Week for his performances last week.

Or Duke could play Virginia Tech, which beat Duke 64-63 in Blacksburg, Va., on Feb. 26, snapping a Blue Devils' five-game winning streak.

Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski praises senior Grayson Allen on eve of his final game in Cameron Indoor Stadium.


Here's a look at Duke's possible opponents prior to the championship game:

Notre Dame

Record: 18-13, ACC tournament seed: 10, KenPom ranking: 28, RPI: 66

Had Colson not been injured, the Fighting Irish's season would have likely been a lot different.

Colson, who returned for the final two games of the regular season, averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks for a 73-56 win over Pitt on Feb. 28 and a 62-57 loss to No. 1 Virginia on March 3. Senior guard Matt Farrell, who also missed five games due to injury, is also back and averaging 16 points per game.

Duke beat Notre Dame at home 88-66 on Jan. 29, the only time these two teams played this season. But the Fighting Irish were without Colson and Ferrell.

Virginia Tech

Record: 21-10, ACC tournament seed: 7, KenPom ranking: 31, RPI: 50

Virginia Tech, which has a first-round ACC tournament bye, will play the winner of the Pitt-Notre Dame game. Duke split the season series with Virginia Tech.

Duke dominated its first game against the Hokies, 74-52, on Feb. 14 in Durham. Duke star freshman forward Marvin Bagley III, who won ACC Player of the Year and ACC Rookie of the Year, did not play.

The Hokies won the next matchup, 64-63, on a game-winning tip-in by Chris Clarke on Feb. 26 in Blacksburg, Va. Duke had led for the entire second half up until that point.

Possible semifinal opponents

The winner of No. 11 Syracuse and No. 14 Wake Forest on Tuesday will play No. 6 UNC. Wednesday night at 9 p.m. The winner of that game will play No. 4 Miami in the quarterfinals. And the winner of that game would play Duke in the semifinals, if Duke makes it that far. Here's a look at Duke's possible semifinal opponents.

North Carolina

Record: 22-9, ACC tournament seed: No. 6, KenPom ranking: 7, RPI: 6

UNC and Duke split the regular season series, with each team winning on their home floor. UNC won 82-78 on Feb. 8. Duke won the regular-season finale, 74-64, on March 3.

In the first matchup, UNC dominated on the offensive glass, pulling down 20 offensive rebounds. Bagley also suffered a knee sprain midway through the first half of the Feb. 8 game and was limited for the rest of the game.

Bagley played on March 3 and UNC had no answer for him. He scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half. He also had 15 rebounds.

When these two rivals play, everything is thrown out of the door.


Record: 19-12, ACC tournament seed: 11, Ken Pom ranking: 51, RPI: 40

Duke won its only matchup against Syracuse 60-44 on Feb. 24 . Both teams played zone, so both teams had limited possessions. But throughout the game, there was never a feeling that Duke would lose. The Orange was over matched.

It also marked Bagley's first game since he suffered the knee sprain more than two weeks earlier. He had 19 points and 7 rebounds in his first game back.


Record: 22-8, ACC tournament seed: 4, Ken Pom ranking: 36, RPI: 25

Duke and Miami played only once this season - on Jan. 15 at Miami. Duke trailed for most of it. And at one point the Blue Devils were down by 13 points.

The Blue Devils turned the ball over a season-high 19 times. But somehow they managed to overcome that deficit and pulled off the win 85-78. Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. scored a career-high 30 points.

Miami finished the season on a four-game winning streak, including wins over UNC, 91-88, and Virginia Tech, 69-68.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; Twitter: @jonmalexander