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Don’t bet against Duke in NCAA Tournament

When Grayson Allen thundered down the lane in T-Mobile Arena in December over the helpless and hapless UNLV basketball team, he sent a statement with the dunk that got replayed on “SportsCenter” the rest of the day.

And now Allen and Duke hope to send another message as the NCAA Tournament begins this week, and they have plenty of ammunition.

The selection committee made the Blue Devils the No. 2 seed in the East Regional despite the fact that they won the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. That gives coach Mike Krzyzewski a big talking point that his team was disrespected.

And he would have a point. Duke beat South No. 1 seed North Carolina in two of three meetings and has a better resume. Usually, the committee gives Duke the benefit of the doubt, so it’s strange to see the opposite this time.

But it might work out for the best for the Blue Devils.

North Carolina plays in a South Region that includes second-seeded Kentucky and No. 3 UCLA, giving it the toughest path to the Final Four. Duke will be favored all the way to at least the regional final, when it could face defending national champion Villanova in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

No matter the path or the seeding, keep these thoughts in mind when filling out the office bracket: Duke has the best players and the best coach.

Bet against the Blue Devils at your peril.

Other thoughts heading into tournament week:

LOCAL REPRESENTATION

Gonzaga is the top seed in the West and Arizona the No. 2. If the seedings hold true and they meet for the right to go to the Final Four, Las Vegans will have some rooting interests.

Former Findlay Prep standout Nigel Williams-Goss is Gonzaga’s outstanding point guard and one of the nation’s best players.

Bishop Gorman High School graduate Zach Collins is one of the top players off the bench.

For Arizona, Findlay’s Allonzo Trier was named Pac-12 tournament MVP after leading the Wildcats to the championship.

Jake DesJardins, who went to Coronado High, is a walk-on.

UNLV fans might have a reason to cheer against the Wildcats. Two of their freshmen making an immediate impact are Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons, who appeared to be on track to be future Rebels before the complete changeover of UNLV’s coaching staff.

AND THE STATE REPRESENTATION

With UNLV trying to dig out from the devastation that is its basketball program, UNR will be the state’s rep in the NCAA Tournament, receiving a 12-seed in the Midwest.

CBS’ Seth Davis went on and on about how he expected the Wolf Pack to make the Sweet 16, and the 12-5 upset happens nearly every year. If the Wolf Pack get by Iowa State in the first round, they probably would face No. 4 Purdue on Sunday.

So it wouldn’t be a complete shock if the Wolf Pack advance to the second week, and if Cameron Oliver, Jordan Caroline and Marcus Marshall are on their games, UNR will be a tough out.

Once the Wolf Pack do go out, then the speculation of where coach Eric Musselman goes next will truly heat up.

NOT DOING ANY FAVORS

How Wichita State got stuck with a 10th seed needs some explaining. The Shockers have one of their best teams, one quite capable of going deep, especially if they had received a seed that better reflects their ability. Wichita State not only got a low seed but also was put in the ultra tough South and will need to beat Dayton and Kentucky just to get out of the weekend.

Southern Methodist was given a six-seed in the East. The Mustangs went 30-4 and beat Cincinnati 71-56 in the final of the American Athletic Conference tournament, and are capable of giving any team a scare. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they reach the second week.

Saint Mary’s as the seventh seed in the West also is curious. The Gaels were the second-best team in the West Coast Conference to Gonzaga, but might not have much to show for it. Should they beat Virginia Commonwealth in the opener, the Gaels probably will face Arizona.

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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