Scheyer leads Duke’s rise to March Madness for the first time

ORLANDO, FL (AP) — A new look, the same expectations of success.

A season short of making it to the Final Four for the 13th time under Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski, Duke not only made the NCAA Tournament again, but seemed to have peaked just in time with first year head coach John Scheer at the helm.

The fifth seed Blue Devils (26-8) take on No. 12 seed Oral Roberts (30-4) in the opening round of the East Regional Thursday night, eager to build on the rich Marsh-Jon legacy Krzyzewski has made over four decades.

“Now I’ve been lucky, I think that’s the No. 12 that I’ve been a part of, and every time it’s so special. It’s something I would never, ever take for granted,” said year-old Scheyer, a former Duke player. and his assistant, who helped Krzyzewski win two of the legendary coaches’ five national championships, on Wednesday.

“I just promised myself that I moved into a head coach position to be completely in the moment all year,” Shire added. “And that’s when things aren’t as good as I would have wanted them to be, that’s when we play great, that’s when you prepare for any game you want to play really well.”

Derailed by injuries for much of the season, the Blue Devils hit their stride late and entered March Madness on and off after winning the ACC tournament. They have won nine straight games – the third longest winning streak Duke has ever had in the NCAA Tournament.

Duke coach John Shire holds the trophy after Duke beat Virginia in the NCAA college basketball game for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Duke coach John Shire holds the trophy after Duke beat Virginia in the NCAA college basketball game for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in Greensboro, N.C., Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Scheyer has used his full squad of players in the past 10 games. The team is 18-1 overall in rounds in which the full roster was available.

Not that he would make a difference against Oral Roberts, the Summit League regular season and conference tournament champion.

Leading the high-scoring Golden Eagles is 6-foot Max Apmas, who two years ago helped Oral Roberts pull off a surprising lead to the Sweet 16 with wins over Ohio State and Florida, the second and seventh seeds, respectively.

Duke’s No. 5 rating is its highest since 2007.

Scheyer is well aware of the ambiguity surrounding the 5-12 matches in the tournament.

“You’re going to see a lot of opinions and predictions. And I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum, where someone picks you to win it all or they pick you to win where it doesn’t, or the other way around where no one thinks you have a chance,” said the Duke coach.

“It doesn’t matter what happened before. No player in the history of the tournament has lost. So no one is safe from being involved in this. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to focus on one game,” Sheer added. “We know that when you get a 12 rating, a lot of times you have a champion. Oral Roberts, they are the champions of their league. … They haven’t lost since January 9th. They’re used to winning.”

Abmas averages 22.2 points and Oral Roberts´ only losses this season have been on the road in Houston, St. Marys, Utah State and New Mexico. The confident Golden Eagles were the only team in the country that went undefeated in conference play.

“Being here for two years, and kind of understanding everything and what comes with it,” Abmas said.

“We’re not complacent,” said backcourt associate Isaac McBride. “We want to keep moving forward, so we want to do whatever it takes to be able to take these steps.”

new beginning?

In another game Thursday, fourth-ranked Tennessee (23-10) faces No. 13-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette (26-7), also in Orlando.

The Volunteers struggled, especially after losing point guard Zakai Ziegler to a torn ACL in the opening minutes of a win over Arkansas in the final week of the regular season. They have won nine of their previous 10 encounters with the Ragini Cajuns, Louisiana’s only win coming in 1985.

Tennessee started the season with high expectations. The Vols are one of two teams in the 68-team NCAA tournament to have multiple wins over a top seed. In addition to their wins over Alabama and Kansas, they also defeated #2 seed Texas in January.

After losing two of the three who entered the tournament, Thursday night is a chance for a fresh start.

“I would say a lot of teams have had some ups and downs this year, and we’re no different. … But right now, we have to rely on work, whatever we put into the program,” said coach Rick Barnes. “We believe in it and we know that if we go out and compete…at the highest level, we feel we can give ourselves a chance to win.”

It’s been a long time

Louisiana earned its first berth in March Madness since 2014 with a win in the Sun Belt Conference tournament. The ragin’ Cajuns finished second in the league during the regular season, and their 26 wins was their second-most under head coach Bob Marlin.

It is the school’s seventh appearance in the national tournament. The only win was a four-point win over Oklahoma in 1992.


AP March Madness coverage: and bracket: and -25-College-Basketball-Poll

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