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.