Troy-Duke Preview

Duke and Troy have something in common. The teams each needed a few days to recharge after grueling conference tournaments.

Beyond that, there aren't many similarities.

No. 2 seed Duke (27-8) and No. 15 Troy (22-14) meet in an NCAA Tournament first-round game in the East Region on Friday. The game tips off at 7:20 p.m. ET at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.

"We need to get a day and half, two days to just get rest," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I think the experience of (a grueling ACC tournament) will help us."

Duke won four games in four days in the ACC Tournament, the final three coming with significant comebacks. After rallying from double-digit, second-half deficits to defeat Louisville and North Carolina, the Blue Devils overcame an eight-point hole down the stretch to claw past Notre Dame in Saturday night's final.

"It's not like a Final Four or the NCAA Tournament because you don't play four teams in a row like this," Krzyzewski said.

Duke was seeded fifth for the ACC tournament.

"We haven't paid any attention to standings or seeds," Krzyzewski said, seeking his sixth national title at Duke. "We just haven't. We just said let's talk about us and let's get better. It worked."

Duke sophomore guard Luke Kennard was named the Most Valuable Player of the ACC Tournament. But it's the next prize that most interests the Blue Devils.

"We came to Duke to be a part of something bigger than ourselves," said Kennard, an All-ACC player averaging a team-high 20.1 points per game. "We're looking forward to our next step this season."

Duke, seeking its sixth national title, was the preseason favorite nationally, but a series of injuries -- and Krzyzewski's back surgery that caused him to miss most of January -- interrupted the team's progress.

Krzyzewski, who has a record 90 NCAA Tournament victories, said the Blue Devils showed in the ACC tournament what they're capable of when they're healthy.

"We're at our best in the last month, once we got everyone together," he said.

Duke senior forward Amile Jefferson said he liked the expressions on his teammates' faces, even when fatigue could have set in last week. He said it's important to have "guys who are fighters ... like Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard, who are just dynamic scorers and always tough players."

Tatum, a freshman forward, is averaging 16.9 points per game.

Troy capped its first Sun Belt Conference tournament title Sunday by defeating Texas State. The Trojans, seeded sixth in that tourney, played four games in five days, including three in a row at the end.

"I'm very proud of our team for fighting through fatigue," Troy coach Phil Cunningham said. "I'm really proud of the resiliency."

Forward Jordan Varnado leads Troy in scoring (16.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.1).

Troy is in the NCAA Tournament for the second time. It lost in the 2003 first round to Xavier.

The only team in the NCAA Tournament field that Troy played this season is Southern California. Duke played 17 games against teams making for the NCAA field.

Duke and Troy have never met in men's basketball.

The winner will play Marquette or South Carolina in the second round on Sunday.
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