Duke came into its game against No. 13 Louisville on Monday night badly in need of a resume-boosting win for its NCAA Tournament hopes. With each of their next three games coming against teams currently ranked in the top-seven according to KenPom, it needed to win this one in order to provide some security over their next few matchups.
So yeah, this one was a big spot.
And the Blue Devils came up huge.
Duke picked up a 72-65 win over Louisville behind a massive second-half performance from Brandon Ingram. Ingram scored 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out four assists over the course of the full game, but it was his work in crunch time that will win the future top-five pick the accolades he deserves. He scored 11 points in the final 12 minutes by consistently attacking the aggressive Louisville defense and picking up foul calls. His length also showed up well on the defensive end, where he grabbed four huge defensive rebounds in the last five minutes. Basically, he was the assertive player that Duke needs to carry the load this season, which is a great sign for the Blue Devils going forward.
And going forward is the most important part here for Duke, given that upcoming bear of a schedule that features a home game against Virginia, followed by a road tilt against North Carolina and a road game against the Cardinals they beat tonight. That’s also followed by an eminently losable home game against a likely tournament-bound Florida State team as well as another game against North Carolina in their regular season finale. Basically, for a team that only had two top-50 wins on its resume and that could conceivably still have five losses on its schedule, this win over Louisville was massive.
The Blue Devils might have the biggest potential seed range of any team likely to make the field of 68. On one hand, all of these elite matchups coming in the following days give them a chance to rack up quality wins in a way that few other teams around the country have. On the other hand, they also could lose each of the next three given their lack of depth, and be sitting at a pedestrian 18-9 on Feb. 21. Honestly, anywhere from a No. 2 seed all the way down to a No. 9 or 10 seed wouldn’t be particularly crazy at this point.
The Blue Devils are always one of the more interesting stories to watch in college basketball, and this season is no different even if the reasons for their narrative allure have changed.