Marquette-Duke Preview

Freshman Kyrie Irving has shown to be a quick learner as Duke
begins its quest for a second straight NCAA tournament title.

It also helps to have an old hand in senior Nolan Smith
alongside him in the backcourt.

The duo leads the top-ranked Blue Devils into the semifinals of
the CBE Classic on Monday at Kansas City, Mo., where they are
expected to face their first real challenge of the season versus

Duke (3-0) has steamrolled Princeton, Miami of Ohio and Colgate
by an average of 41.0 points, shooting 44.7 percent from 3-point
range and 48.6 percent overall. Irving, whose 14.3 points per game
rank second on the team to Smith’s 16.0, has shot 52.2 percent from
the field and compiled 20 assists against only three turnovers.

Irving had 13 points and nine assists as the Blue Devils routed
Colgate 110-58 on Friday, while Smith contributed 16 points and
nine assists.

“We’re both trying to get double-doubles every night,” Irving
said. “We can definitely do it on this team, (with) the amount of
weapons we have on this team. We’re always in competition with one

That friendly competition has led to a more efficient offense,
with Duke averaging 95.3 points and owning a near 2-to-1
assist-to-turnover ratio. The Blue Devils won the NCAA tournament
last season despite only a 1.26 ratio.

“If a team can learn to really like to pass, that’s still, I
think, the most beautiful part of our game – our connecting
passes,” said coach Mike Krzyzewski. “People like the dunk and the
3-point shot – and I do, too, if they’re ours – but I really like
connecting passes.”

The Golden Eagles (4-0) have done a decent job disrupting
opponents’ passes, getting 36 steals and forcing 69 turnovers.
Marquette, which is trying to reload for a sixth straight NCAA
tournament appearance, is still finding its offensive bearings
following Saturday’s 82-69 win over South Dakota.

Senior Jimmy Butler scored a season-high 20 points while
sophomore center Chris Otule had career highs of 15 and eight

“Our mindset is that we really can’t go wrong, everyone has
picked us to lose, so the best thing we can do is win and prove
everyone wrong,” said Butler about playing Duke. “I think if we go
out and execute, play as an underdog and play as hard as we can, I
don’t see why we can’t come out on top of that game.”

Freshman guard Vander Blue, a teammate of Irving’s on the United
States gold medal-winning Under-18 squad, is averaging 9.0 points,
3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals.

Marquette, which was fourth in Division I in 3-point shooting
(41.3 percent) and tied for 22nd in 3-pointers made (274) in
2009-10, has been less reliant on the outside shot thus far. The
Golden Eagles have only 13 makes – seven by Dwight Buycks – from
beyond the arc their first four games but are averaging 85.0 points
and shooting 52.0 percent.

Senior forward Joseph Fulce is not expected to play due to a
knee injury, while freshman center Davante Gardner – averaging 9.8
points – is probable after suffering a shoulder injury

Duke has won 25 straight November games since losing to
Marquette in the 2006 CBE Classic final. The winner of this game
will play the Kansas State-Gonzaga winner Tuesday, while the losers
will meet for third place.