Rhode Island faces tall task against Duke's freshmen

The Sports Xchange

Rhode Island disposed of one of the country's top freshman in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Now the Rams have the task of dealing with a collection of the nation's top first-year players in the second round.


Seventh-seeded Rhode Island meets second-seeded Duke on Saturday afternoon in a Midwest Regional matchup at PPG Paints Arena.

Duke uses four freshmen in its starting lineup.

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"We're not that young group that we were in November or December, even January," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We're a very good basketball team. We can get better. Now, will we have that opportunity after (Saturday)?"

Rhode Island coach Danny Hurley, who's in his sixth season, said he hopes last season's early meeting with Duke will have benefits for his team even though the Blue Devils have another overhaul in personnel.

"I think playing them the one time last year certainly helps to have that first one against Duke out of our system," Hurley said.

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Duke's post presence with freshmen Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. can be imposing particularly for the Rams, who generally don't have a starter listed any taller than 6 feet 5.


"They've got two monsters down there in the post," Rhode Island guard Jeff Dowtin said.

Rhode Island counters Duke's youthful talent with a time-tested roster.

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"I think older guys, we tend to win games later on in the season and this is the perfect scenario to do it," Rhode Island fifth-year senior guard E.C. Matthews said. "Just certain situations we're in, we've been in it before."

Rhode Island overcame Oklahoma and freshman guard Trae Young, the country's leading scorer, for an overtime victory in Thursday's first round.

A couple of hours later, Duke was putting the finishing touches on a rout of Iona. Freshmen spearheaded that effort, with Bagley, Carter, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. among the major contributors. All four freshmen average in double figures in scoring, led by Bagley's 21.1 points per game.

Duke defeated Rhode Island last season in November in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-off, so at least Blue Devils senior guard Grayson Allen has an idea of what to expect.


"They're very experienced and their guards are very tough," Allen said. "They go at you both offensively and defensively. ... They have a pretty good amount of guys back from that team that I played, so it will be a very tough matchup because of how experienced they are and because they are a team that wins."

Krzyzewski has a long connection with the Hurley family. He coached Hurley's older brother, Bobby Hurley. When Bob Hurley Sr., a retired legendary high school coach in New Jersey, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, Krzyzewski presented him.

"Their family epitomizes the highest level of love for the game," Krzyzewski said. "Danny, he hasn't built a team, he has built a program there. That's what you want to do is build a program that develops teams year after year, and he has done that at Rhode Island."

Rhode Island and Duke both lost in the second round of last year's tournament.

Duke leads the all-time series with Rhode Island 4-0, with two matchups coming in NCAA Tournament play.

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