Crossposted here.

Series History:
This will be the first ever meeting between the Blue Devils and Falcons. Duke currently enjoys an 8-4 overall record against teams from the Mountain West Conference. The Blue Devils also maintain a 38-16 overall record against the service academies (Army, Navy, and Air Force).

How They Got Here: Duke won the Durham regional of the CBE Classic with wins over Georgia Southern and Columbia. Meanwhile the Falcons defeated Long Beach State 69-68 before walloping Stanford (79-45) in finals of the Palo Alto Regional to advance to Kansas City.

The Veterans vs. The Kids:
As has been well documented throughout the early season, the Duke roster is young. Very young – with as many as four freshmen on the court at once for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad. Meanwhile the Falcons enjoy the familiarity of a veteran ball club that is most accomplished. Last season the Falcons entered the NCAA Tournament with a 24-6 overall record that included “name wins” over teams such as Georgia Tech, Miami, BYU, and Utah. The Falcons drew Illnois in the first round of the tournament and pushed the Illini before ultimately falling 78-69 in the first round. This season Air Force returns all five starters and has nothing but juniors and seniors in the top seven spots of their rotation. The Falcons currently have the nation’s fourth longest home winning streak — which sits at 18 games.

Defense Wins Ball Games:
The Falcons are no stranger to stingy defense and a slower mode of play than the young Dukies will be used to. For the last four seasons, Air Force has led the country in scoring defense. Combined with a highly efficient offensive scheme that is a derivative of the “Princeton style” offense that gave Duke so much trouble last season when used against them by Georgetown, the Falcons present the stiffest test of the young season for Duke. A new wrinkle in this year’s team is that the Falcons’ offense has been a full 10 points per game better than last year’s. On the season Air Force is out-scoring their opponents by an average of 78.3 to 51.0.

A Notable Game For Duke:
Should Duke earn a victory against Air Force, it would mark the 1,800th victory in the program’s history. Duke currently holds a 1,799-811 mark over the 102 years the program has been in existence. The 1,799 victories are good enough for fourth all time.

Balanced Roster Yields Many Weapons For Coach K:
Unlike years past, this year’s Duke roster has yet to produce a top scoring option, or even a ‘most dangerous’ weapon. Instead the Blue Devils are placing several different players in key roles, and the stat sheets have continued to vary. A terrific example came against UNC-Greensboro on Thursday night when red shirt sophomore David McClure recorded his best game at Duke. He set new career highs with 11 points, nine rebounds (five offensive) and seven steals against the Spartans.

In the same breath, the Blue Devils have relied on youth and the “kids” have come through in a big way. Duke’s freshman class (Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas & Brian Zoubek) is averaging 40.0 points, 14.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.3 blocks and 4.3 steals per game. They are also shooting an impressive 51.3 percent (41-of-80) from the field. All four members of the class have scored in double figures, with Henderson, Scheyer and Zoubek reaching double digits twice apiece.

The Winner Will Receive:
The winner of this game will move on to play the winner of the Texas Tech – (16) Marquette match up on Tuesday night at 10:00 PM EST on espn2. The losers of the two games will meet in the third place game, which will be broadcast on ESPNU.


Duke 74
Air Force 63