The Dagger previews each of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here's our look at Duke-Purdue:
No. 1 Duke (31-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue (29-5)
Friday, 9:57 p.m. EDT (approximate), Reliant Stadium (Houston)
How they got here:
Duke: d. No. 16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 73-44; d. No. 8 California, 68-53.
Purdue: d. No. 13 Siena, 72-64; d. 5 Texas A&M, 63-61 (OT).
Last Sweet 16 appearances:
Duke: 2009 (lost to Villanova in regional semis, 77-54)
Purdue: 2009 (lost to Connecticut in regional semis, 72-60)
Match-up to watch: Duke G Nolan Smith vs. Purdue G Chris Kramer
We're guessing Kramer's going to be put on Smith as opposed to Jon Scheyer because Smith is more of a general threat. Scheyer can kill you from the outside and has been nearly as efficient at coming off of screens to do so as J.J. Redick once was, but Smith is more of an enigma on offense. A creator? Sure, in his own way. Kramer, by the way, has been a stud defender since he arrived on campus four years ago. It's because of him that Purdue is even playing in this game, and we'd like to think if he had a Duke uniform on for the past four seasons rather than a Purdue one, he might be the most hated player in the nation.
Two teams that pride themselves on gritty, slap-the-floor defensive mentality. It's almost too much to take, really. No one expected Purdue to survive one round, let alone two. The exact opposite was expected of Duke, who can't catch a break because it's Duke and this is considered the weakest region. Add on to that the fact the Blue Devils avoided playing Texas A&M in Houston and that sentiment is compounded. Purdue has overachieved and it's no doubt a weaker team without Robbie Hummel.
But the bench has done a tremendous job to this point and Purdue, like four or five other teams still alive, is now playing with house money. Reaching the Sweet 16 without its best player is a success this season. The Boilers have to keep Duke's troika S players — Smith, Scheyer and Kyle Singler — from scoring 50 points or more collectively. If Duke is forced to have Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas and Miles Plumlee contribute in big ways, Purdue could have a chance. The S trio is truly the power chip to Duke's success.
Prediction: In what could be a boring watch, Duke is going to win this game because Singler will show his quirky-scorer side and Purdue will have a drought or two. The pick: Duke 74, Purdue 62.