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Sweet 16: Nothing New to Duke
Courtesy: Michael Tomko,
Release: 03/26/2010
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Nolan Smith
Photo Courtesy: David Bradley, Duke Basketball
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HOUSTON, Texas - Of the 16 schools remaining in the NCAA Tournament field, the Duke Blue Devils are the team with the most experience in the Sweet 16.

That's right. A field that contains the likes of Kentucky, Syracuse and Michigan State, all teams with storied pasts and National Championships, but it's the Blue Devils that have played this deep into March more times than anyone else in the last 13 years.

Since 1998, the Blue Devils have reached the Sweet 16 in 11 of the last 13 season, the most in the NCAA in that span. The team with the next most over that span is Michigan State, which has reached the round of 16 nine times.

"Since 2004 we've still gone to Sweet 16s," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We've probably won as many games in the last two years as anybody. I'm proud of our guys."

"As long as we're competing for it every year -- I think we've been to, I don't know, 11 [Sweet 16's]," Krzyzewski added. "Eleven out of the last 13 years to the Sweet 16; I'm sure that measures up with anybody."

The Duke head coach is right. The Blue Devils have won more games over the last two seasons, 61, than any other team in the NCAA.

Another way to show Duke's dominance, compared with the other 11 ACC schools, which have reached the regional semifinals 16 times combined since 1998, the Blue Devils have reached the Sweet 16 just five times less than the entire league.

For Saint Mary's, Cornell, Northern Iowa and Baylor, this is each of the school's first trips to the Sweet 16.

For Kansas State, it is its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1988.

"I think every team that makes it this far deserves to be here," junior Kyle Singler said. "For us, we feel that we are deserving of being here. We feel that we are one of the best teams in the country. I think that is just the type of ego you have to have if you reach this far in the Tournament."

Duke's resume is as good as any one of the remaining teams as they enter Friday's matchup with Purdue.

"I love this team as much as any team I've coached," Krzyzewski said. "Not more than some of the teams, but as much because they're more of an old-time team. They've grown up together. They understand what makes them good. That's why they've won 31 games and have advanced this far, won regular season and tournament championship in the ACC. They know who they are, and they like who they are."

Duke joins Xavier, Michigan State, Syracuse and Purdue as the five teams still left in the field that reached the Sweet 16 a year ago.

Duke's Sweet 16 opponent this year, Purdue, is one of a handful of schools in this year's field that has reached the regional semifinals multiple times, reaching the Sweet 16 five times since 1998.

Both Purdue and Duke were eliminated from the Sweet 16 during last year's Tournament. The Boilermakers were clipped by Connecticut, while Duke fell to Villanova.

"I feel like last year we were very excited to be at the Sweet 16 as oppose to wanting to keep it going," senior Lance Thomas said. "We are ready to keep it going. I promise that."

"Those experiences [from last season] definitely help because, one, we have been here before so we are not happy," junior Nolan Smith said. "A lot of these teams that have made it here have said, 'we are just happy to be here, this and that', but we have guys in this locker room that have been here. We know how it felt to lose here last year. We are not trying to let that happen."

And the veterans are also making sure that the freshmen understand the sense of urgency that is needed in the Sweet 16.

"You can't take a play off," freshman Mason Plumlee said. "There is no reason to be tired because if you miss a play it could cost you."

Duke and Purdue faced each other last season, with the Blue Devils claiming a 76-60 victory over the Boilermakers from West Lafayette, Ind. back in December of 2008.

Though, little stock is being put into last year's matchup.

"It is going to be a different game, different matchups," Singler said.

Following scoring just 42 points in a loss to Minnesota during the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue has been able to win its last two games, beating Siena in the opening round and Texas A&M in the round of 32.

"Right now is a time where every team is fighting for their lives," Smith said. "They [Purdue] have really picked up the slack since losing [Robbie] Hummel. They have young guys coming off the bench that are stepping up."

Lewis Jackson has stepped in nicely for the Boilermakers in place of Hummel. Purdue is 5-1 with Jackson in the starting lineup and the sophomore guard tied a career-high with nine assists in its opening round win. He added eight points in Purdue's win in the second round.

The Blue Devils on the other hand don't have to worry about replacing any of their starters. Duke will hit the floor Friday having won 14 of its last 15 contests and are holding opponents to just 48.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.

"Both teams love to get after if defensively, love to be aggressive, be physical and they do it more in a full court style and we do it this year in more of a half court style," Smith said. "It is definitely going to be a game where defense is going to win it."

"The hungrier team is going to play on Sunday," Thomas said. "We have to be the hungrier team."

Sweet Sixteen Appearances (of the this year's Sweet 16 field) since 1998
Duke  -- 11
Michigan State -- 9
Kentucky -- 7                   
Syracuse -- 6                                
West Virginia -- 5                        
Purdue -- 5                                   
Xavier -- 4                                   
Tennessee -- 4                                 
Washington -- 3                              
Butler -- 3                                       
Ohio State -- 3                                
Baylor -- 1                                      
St. Mary's (Calif.) -- 1                     
Cornell -- 1                                     
Kansas State -- 1                              
Northern Iowa -- 1