In 1-2 Kansas-Duke matchup, 3 may be key

OMAHA, Neb. -- Proficiency at shooting from behind the arc has powered Kansas throughout the season.

Additional evidence was provided in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament when the top-seeded Jayhawks (30-7) made at least 10 shots from 3-point range for the 19th time this season.

They have won 17 of those games, including an 80-76 victory over Clemson that pushed them into the Midwest Regional final on Sunday against No. 2 seed Duke (29-7) at CenturyLink Center.

Despite that outside touch, the inside presence provided by mammoth center Udoka Azubuike makes Kansas a more complete team. The 7-foot sophomore appears recovered from an MCL sprain after posting a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) against Clemson.

Teammates are glad he is available, and even think back to a wrist injury last season that sidelined Azubuike after just 11 games.

"He makes everything easier for us," said All-America point guard Devonte' Graham. "We get to play off of him. We always say throw the ball inside, play around 'Doke' because it's hard to guard him and he can get angles easily. And, he opens up shots for us and driving lanes."

The Elite Eight appearance, just like a 30-win season, is the third in a row for Kansas, though it missed out on a Final Four berth each of the last two seasons with losses against Villanova and Oregon.

"We've got to get over that hump," said Graham, a senior who averages 17.3 points and 7.4 assists. "So Udoka is going to make a huge difference. When he's in there, his presence, you can't duplicate it and he's a big factor."

One question is whether coach Bill Self's 2-7 all-time record in the Elite Eight is a factor too. Two of those defeats came while coaching Tulsa and Illinois, so Self is 2-5 with Kansas, where he is in his 15th season. He coached the Jayhawks to a national championship in 2008 and a runner-up finish in 2012.

"I think about it all the time," Self said. "Devonte's not won the last two (Elite Eight appearances), but there's seven that I haven't won when I've been the head coach. Certainly it's etched in the back of my brain, and I'd like nothing more than to take my team this year to San Antonio and let them experience what the best of the best is in college basketball."

Duke obviously is accustomed to that stage under Mike Krzyzewski, who has led the Blue Devils to 12 Final Fours and five national championships since becoming coach in 1980. He claimed his 1,100th career win in the Sweet 16 as Duke topped Syracuse 69-65.

To pass John Wooden and gain an exclusive record for Final Four appearances, Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils must get through a region where the NCAA bracket did not bust.

In each of their three tournament wins, Marvin Bagley scored 22 points. Against Syracuse, the 6-foot-11 forward padded his season scoring total to 678 to set a Duke freshman record. Still, Bagley was just as satisfied with the application of what has become a defensive staple for the Blue Devils this season: their zone defense.

"We were playing terrible at one point in the game," Bagley said, "but we did a great job of keeping our heads and staying poised and adjusting on the defensive end."

Those adjustments will involve tracking several deadly outside shooters Kansas unleashes, while attempting to seal off Azubuike underneath.

"We know we're going to have to shoot 30 threes," said Self, "because they're going to play zone. It'll be a fun game."