PHILADELPHIA — Duke will never be a first-weekend tournament darling. So a win today would barely cause a ripple in Durham, N.C.
But at Creighton, a win could send the campus into a frenzy. The Bluejays haven't reached the Sweet 16 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. For the second straight year, they're on the cusp. North Carolina spoiled their run last season. Now another ACC team looks to send All-American F Doug McDermott and Co. home.
McDermott, an All-America candidate, had 27 points, including 11-of-11 on free throws, and 11 rebounds to help Creighton beat Cincinnati 67-63 on Friday. He impressed Duke coach Mike Krzyzewksi, who overlooked McDermott when he recruited his high school teammate in Iowa, former North Carolina star Harrison Barnes.
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 of the junior averaging 20.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. "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 has had J.J. Redick, Jason Williams and Kyrie Irving over that span.
Maybe Duke can snag a report from two of its current players, Mason Plumlee and 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."
Injury report: Michigan State G Keith Appling said he will be ready for the Sweet 16 despite a right shoulder injury sustained while playing defense with 8:35 left Saturday against Memphis. He sustained the same injury Feb. 6 against Minnesota. "It slid out, but it slid back in," said Appling, who didn't return to the game. "It's nothing. Since it had happened before, I knew what was happening. It was very painful. But I could've gone back in if I had to."
Upset alert: Ohio State failed to reach the Sweet 16 both times it has played its first two games in Dayton (about 75 minutes from its campus in Columbus) under coach Thad Matta. The Buckeyes were a No. 2 seed — just like this year — when they lost to No. 7-seeded Georgetown in the second round in 2006. As a No. 8 seed in 2009, they lost to No. 9 seeded Sienna in double-overtime.
Second-half surges: Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy has searched all season for a way to jolt star G Marshall Henderson out of his first-half funks.
In the win over Florida in the SEC title game, Henderson scored three of his 21 during the first half. Friday against Wisconsin, two of his 19 came during the first half. If Henderson finds his touch early tonight, La Salle could be in trouble.
"I would like him to make shots earlier. That's for sure," Kennedy said. "And he talks about it. I told him (Saturday) he may be talking about it too much. It's almost like it's set in his mind."
Understatement of the day: Temple coach Fran Dunphy isn't the sugarcoating type. He's a no-nonsense guy from Philly. So he wasn't about to hide his feelings about facing top-seeded and title contender Indiana today: "We're concerned."
Quotable: "Nobody can ever take away that he did a fabulous job. On the flip side, I don't really see after 10 years it's near as big a deal as maybe the story line would be." — Kansas coach Bill Self on today's against Roy Williams, who left Kansas to coach North Carolina