When hypothetically pitching the Duke Blue Devils and the Kansas Jayhawks against each other in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, there is a unique opportunity that doesn’t present itself with most of the other match-ups that I’ve previewed; the Jayhawks and Blue Devils have already faced off this season.
Duke led for a majority of that game very early in the 2013-14 college basketball season, when Duke was ranked No. 4 and Kansas was ranked No. 5, but let their lead slip away as the Jayhawks proved their superiority and won 94 – 83. Since that game, both teams continue to get better and even hold the same number of losses.
Kansas is one of the most talented teams in college basketball. Their roster is a list of top college basketball players as well as future NBA draft picks. Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins are two of the top freshmen in the country, and the team as a whole is third in college basketball in field goal percentage. They’re just impossible to stop offensively because they rarely take bad shots. Their “worst” loss of the season came to the San Diego State Aztecs, who have the talent to make it to the Elite Eight. The Jayhawks will have every opportunity to win the National Championship.
Duke has struggled against most of the top opposition that they’ve played this season as well as dropping two games that should have been easy wins in ACC play. Their best win has come against the Michigan Wolverines, but next to that there aren’t any huge wins. As the season’s gone along, however, the Blue Devils have transformed from a team that relied solely on Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to a team with key members that not only play defense, but can chip in for 15 or more points when necessary. The Blue Devils continue to get better as the season goes along.
A 2014 NCAA Tournament match-up between these two teams could range anywhere from the Sweet Sixteen to the National Championship; both teams have the talent and potential to beat any team in college basketball on any given day. A game like this between two of the best teams in recent memory coupled with potentially the top two NBA Draft selections – maybe three if you count Embiid – is what neutral college basketball fans dream of for the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas may have won the first match-up at the beginning of the season, but I will never bet against Coack K in a rematch. He’s one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, and I don’t think that the Jayhawks, although having more raw-talent than the Blue Devils, will be able to beat Duke once again. The Big 12 is an extremely difficult conference, and it may be difficult for the young Jayhawks to wade through a Big 12 schedule and then face a different style team like the Blue Devils. The prediction for the hypothetical 2014 NCAA Tournament match-up between Duke and Kansas goes in favor of the Blue Devils in a close, hard-fought thriller fairly similar to their early season match-up, but with different results.