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Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Duke Blue Devils Prediction: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Preview

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Duke Blue Devils Prediction: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Preview

Razorbacks look for another upset to punch their ticket to the Final Four while the Blue Devils hope to give Coach K one more shot at a national title

Duke is one step away from reaching the Final Four under head coach Mike Krzyzewski one last time when the Blue Devils face Arkansas in the West Regional final on Saturday.

The 2-seed Blue Devils (31-6) earned their 100th NCAA Tournament victory during Krzyzewski's coaching tenure when they rallied to beat 3-seed Texas Tech 78-73 in a back-and-forth Sweet 16 game on Thursday night. Duke overcame the Red Raiders' tenacious defense with efficient second-half offense. The Blue Devils shot 71 percent from the field after halftime. They made 17 total baskets in the second half and scored eight consecutive baskets without a missed shot over the final eight and a half minutes.

Arkansas gives Duke another defensive challenge to overcome. The 4-seed Razorbacks have won 18 of their last 21 games and keep finding new ways to win.

Arkansas (28-8) upset No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, edging the Bulldogs 74-68 on Thursday. The Razorbacks reached the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season after shutting down Bulldogs in the backcourt. They had a perfect game plan for the Zags, hounding shooters and passers with their length and quickness. Gonzaga shot just 38 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers, allowing the Razorbacks to pull away late.

Duke and Arkansas have met three times before this season, with the Razorbacks holding a 2-1 series lead. Arkansas memorably beat the Blue Devils 76-72 to capture their lone NCAA title in 1994.

West Region: No. 4 Arkansas Razorbacks (28-8) vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (31-6)

Time: Saturday, March 26 at 8:49 p.m. ET
Where: Chase Center (San Francisco)
Spread: Duke -3.5

Keys for Arkansas

JD Notae is the most important playmaker for the Razorbacks. Still, he had a disappointing outing against Gonzaga by his standards. Notae scored 21 points but needed 29 shots to get there. He shot just 31 percent from the field and committed five turnovers. The good news is he also tallied six rebounds and six assists against the Zags. For Arkansas to also knock off Duke, Notae needs to find his shot. If he can couple offensive efficiency with the other things he already does, the Razorbacks will be unstoppable on both ends of the court.

Arkansas needs to control the glass and limit second and third chances on possessions. Duke has plenty of size to match up with the Razorbacks. But the Blue Devils aren't a dominant team on the boards. Texas Tech had a plus-seven advantage on the offensive glass and outrebounded Duke by a plus-four margin overall. Arkansas did a good job of attacking the paint against Gonzaga and holding their own on the glass. The Razorbacks' activity around the rim kept the Zags off-balance as the game progressed and it can do the same to the Blue Devils.

Keys for Duke

Being patient on offense is critical for the Blue Devils. Arkansas is so effective on defense because it flusters opponents into taking rushed shots and trying difficult passes. The Razorbacks will apply pressure and Duke needs sophomore guard Jeremy Roach to keep a level head and involve everyone in the offense. Duke has enough firepower to overcome rugged defenses. The Blue Devils have one of the top 10 offenses in Division I, averaging 80.2 points per game.

Getting Paolo Banchero going early is a good way to put Arkansas on its heels. Banchero leads the Blue Devils with 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest and is second at 3.2 assists. He is a game-changer on both ends of the court. He can attack the rim with ease and also knock down timely outside baskets. Banchero was a difference-maker in several successful late-game possessions that helped Duke outlast upset bids from both Texas Tech and Michigan State.

Final Analysis

If a writer were to pen a script concerning Krzyzewski's final season with Duke, a return trip to the Final Four and another national championship would be the perfect Hollywood ending. Can the Blue Devils get past Arkansas to make it happen? Without a doubt. The Razorbacks are tough on defense, but they have been either inconsistent or mediocre on offense through their first three NCAA Tournament games. Duke does not have a ton of experience, but the Blue Devils' roster is flush with future NBA talent, and this is a team that has too many weapons on offense for Arkansas to contain all of them for 40 minutes.

Prediction: Duke 72, Arkansas 65

Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.