By STEVE WISEMAN
DURHAM — Capturing another ACC championship on Sunday ensured Duke a place among the top four teams for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Devils (30-4), last year’s NCAA champions, are the No. 1 seed in the West Regional but will begin play far closer to home.
Duke plays Hampton (23-8) on Friday 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 12:40 p.m. Michigan-Tennessee game at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, the NCAA announced on Sunday.
“We’re honored to be a No. 1seed,” Duke senior Nolan Smith said. “We worked hard all season long and we finished strong. We are excited with our seeding.”
Prior to the bracket being announced, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski felt his team had accomplished enough to be a No. 1 seed.
“We’re 30-4 and won the ACC,” Krzyzewski said. “So we probably should be a No. 1 seed.”
Joining Duke and No. 16 seed Hampton playing West Regional games in Charlotte on Friday are No. 8 seed Michigan (19-13) and No. 9 Tennessee (19-14). The two winners will face off on Sunday.
Smith, the Most Valuable Player Award winner for both the ACC regular season and tournament, said it didn’t matter if Duke was a No. 1seed or not. The team’s focus would have to be strong because everyone wants to knock off the team that won it all the year before.
“The target is going to be on us,” Smith said. “We are the defending champions. Everybody is going to look at us as that.”
The West Regional includes seven teams ranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25. No. 7 San Diego State (30-2) is seeded No. 2, with No. 21 Connecticut, No. 10 Texas and No. 16 Arizona being seeded Nos. 3-5.
If Duke wins two games to advance out of Charlotte, regional semifinal and final games will be played in Anaheim, Calif.
Smith said it will be nice to play the first two games relatively close to Durham and that he expects to see and hear plenty of Duke fans in Time Warner Cable Arena this weekend.
Reminded that UNC is also opening the tournament in Charlotte, Smith said being booed by people in light blue won’t faze the Blue Devils. Sunday’s performance, he said, proves that.
“We just played in front of a lot of Carolina blue,” Smith said. “I think we can handle it.”
Hampton earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament. The Pirates defeated Morgan State 60-55 in the championship game on Saturday.
Hampton played just one game against a team rated in the top 100 of the Ratings Percentage Index this season. The Pirates beat No. 50 Colorado State 77-75 on Jan. 1.
Hampton lost to Wake Forest 63-56 in its season-opening game on Nov. 15.
Hampton is in the big dance for the first time since 2006. That year, the Pirates lost to Monmouth 71-49 in the play-in game at Dayton, Ohio.
In 2001, while playing as a No. 15 seed, Hampton pulled one of the tournament’s biggest upsets when it defeated No. 2 seed Iowa State 58-57.
Article source: Nick Kicks