Jon Rothstein: ‘Duke Has Clear Path To Elite Eight’

The day after Selection Sunday – but before the NCAA Tournament begins – is truly unique for CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein. In fact, Rothstein said he feels “like a CPA on April 14.”

Have no fear, future tax-filers. It’s only March 16, so you’ve still got time. But you might want to take care of business before the Madness begins. Unless you’re a Duke fan.

Then you might be bored for the next week or two.

“Duke has a clear path to the Elite 8,” Rothstein said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I look at the Blue Devils in the South Region. I don’t see a team beating them until potentially the regional final.”

Assuming Duke (29-4, 15-3) wins its opening-round game, it would face the winner of No. 8 San Diego State and No. 9 St. John’s in the Round of 32 before a likely Sweet 16 matchup with No. 4 Georgetown or No. 5 Utah.

In the East Region, however, Rothstein sees a slightly more difficult path for No. 1 Villanova.

“One thing that I think is real interesting from a national perspective – and I’ve written about this and I’ve talked about this – Villanova clearly deserved a one seed,” Rothstein said. “Villanova without question provides Jay Wright with the best chance to get to a Final Four since 2009. But watching the Big East Tournament compared to the Big 12 Tournament compared to the ACC Tournament compared to the SEC Tournament with certain games – in terms of the caliber of athletes with length and athleticism across the front line – it’s a different breed of cattle.”

When Villanova reached the Final Four in 2009 as a 3-seed, three of the four one seeds were from the Big East.

“So think about how Villanova was tested then when it went to a Final Four in 2009 compared to now,” Rothstein said. “I’m not taking away the team they had, the season they had. But right now, the first thing that jumped out: Villanova in the Round of 32 has a different-breed-of-cattle game looming against NC State or LSU.”

Rothstein likes NC State to beat LSU, in part because it has four legitimate big men in Lennard Freeman, Kyle Washington, Abdul-Malik Abu and Beejay Anya to rotate down low.

“NC State has shown a penchant this year for beating elite teams,” Rothstein said. “It’s beaten Duke. It’s won a game at Louisville. Guard play is always prominent in the NCAA Tournament, and Trevor Lacey is one of the better under-the-radar scorers in the country.”

Lacey leads the Wolfpack with averages of 15.8 points and 3.4 assists per game.

“I like NC State state to beat LSU,” Rothstein said. “And guys, I think right there you could have a similar situation in terms of talent and ability for Villanova like you saw last year when the Cats faced UConn in the Round of 32. Because you saw in that game, all of a sudden, UConn definitely had (Shabazz) Napier and it had (Ryan) Boatwright. But it also had DeAndre Daniels. It also had other players that were more on par with the talent that Villanova had assembled.

“So if we get Villanova/NC State in the Round of 32, I think you’re going to see the Wildcats extremely tested and extremely, extremely pushed to the wire in Pittsburgh. That’s the thing that jumped out at me.”

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