Marquette-Duke Preview

BY foxsports • November 21, 2010

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 Marquette.

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 another.''

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 rebounds.

"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 Saturday.

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.

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