PHILADELPHIA — The last time Duke entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed was last year and the Blue Devils didn’t last too long.
They lost to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the second round, a stunning upset that will have an effect on both Duke and this year’s 15th-seeded opponent, Albany.
“Well, Lehigh didn’t do us any favors, that’s for sure,” Albany coach Will Brown said Thursday, a day before the Blue Devils and Great Danes meet in the second round of the Midwest Regional. “I think the one thing with your kids is if you look back at the NCAA tournament, a 16 seed has never beaten a 1. A 15 has beaten a 2. So when you talk to your kids about that and you look them in the eye and you’re preaching, they believe you because it’s happened.”
Lehigh’s 75-70 win last season was the sixth time a No. 2 seed went down to a 15.
“If we keep looking back at our experiences, then we would really get overconfident because we’ve won four national championships and been to 11 Final Fours,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “There’s no need to go back to good or bad experiences because not all these guys were involved in that.
“The best thing to do is to be involved in this experience, and we’re not reminding the seniors that they’ve won a national championship when they were freshmen. We’re not talking about what we did last year because it’s a totally different team.
My feeling is stay in this moment. Whatever happened in the past, good or bad, has happened in the past.”
There’s been a lot more NCAA past for Duke than Albany (24-10), the America East Conference champions.
Duke is 96-32 as it enters its 36th NCAA tournament and the Blue Devils have been either a No. 1 or 2 seed the last six years in a row, nine of the last 10 and 15 of the past 17.
The Great Danes are making their third appearance in the tournament — all since 2006 — and they have been a 16, a 13 and this year’s No. 15. The first two losses were to Connecticut — a game Albany led by 12 points in the second half — and Virginia.
“I think it’s just coming in with the mentality to play relaxed,” said Jacob Iati, a graduate student who was second on the Great Danes in scoring with a 12.1 average. “We don’t have any pressure on us. Nobody in the country expects us to win or even make it a game. That makes it easier to relax and play loose.”