Scheyer leads surging Duke into March Madness for 1st time

ORLANDO, Fla. — New look, same expectations for success.

A season removed from reaching the Final Four for a 13th time under Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski, Duke not only is in the NCAA Tournament again but appears to be peaking at the right time with first-year coach Jon Scheyer at the helm.


The fifth-seeded Blue Devils (26-8) face No. 12 seed Oral Roberts (30-4) in the opening round of the East Regional on Thursday night, eager to build on a rich March Madness legacy Krzyzewski fashioned over more than four decades.

“I’ve been fortunate now, I think this is number 12 that I’ve been a part of, and each time it’s so special. It’s something I will never, ever, ever take for granted,” the 35-year-old Scheyer, a former Duke player and assistant who helped Krzyzewski win two of the legendary coach’s five national championships, said Wednesday.

“I just promised myself as I made this transition to being a head coach just to be in the moment fully this whole year,” Scheyer added. “And that’s when things weren’t as good as I wanted them to be, that’s when we are playing great, and that’s in preparation for any game you want to play really well.”

Hampered by injuries for prolonged stretches of the season, the Blue Devils hit their stride late and enter March Madness on a roll after winning the ACC Tournament. They’ve won nine straight games — the third-longest winning streak Duke has ever carried into the NCAA Tournament.

Scheyer has had use of his full complement of players for the past 10 games. The team is 18-1 overall in outings in which the full roster has been available.

Not that it will make a difference against Oral Roberts, the Summit League regular-season and conference tournament champions.

The high-scoring Golden Eagles are led by 6-foot senior guard Max Abmas, who two years ago helped Oral Roberts make a surprising run to the Sweet 16 with wins over Ohio State and Florida, who were seeded second and seventh, respectively. Duke’s No. 5 seeding is its highest since 2007.

Scheyer is well aware of the mystique regarding 5-12 matchups in the tournament.

“You’re going to see a lot of opinions, predictions. And I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum, where one, they pick you to win the whole thing or they pick you to win where that doesn’t happen, or it’s the opposite where nobody thinks you have a chance,” the Duke coach said.

“It doesn’t matter what’s happened before. Any seed in the history of the tournament has lost. So nobody is safe going into this. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to focus on one game,” Scheyer added.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email