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Hampton-Duke Preview

Mar 19, 2010 - 7:40 PM By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN STATS Senior Writer

Hampton (20-11) at Duke (27-5), 2:30 p.m. EDT

Duke is accustomed to being a top seed, but it may not mind being seeded second the way its season ended last year.

The Blue Devils open their 16th straight NCAA appearance Saturday when they host Hampton in the first round of the Memphis Regional.

Duke (27-5) earned its first ACC crown since 2004 by beating North Carolina State 70-60 on March 7. That gave the Blue Devils the No. 2 seed in Memphis behind Tennessee, which should have its legions of fans for that possible matchup.

The Blue Devils don't want to look ahead.

"There can be a lot of hypothesizing about what could happen and we're supposed to create the happening, and that's (to) move Duke through the brackets and move us through with dominant, aggressive play," coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

Duke gained top seeds three times in the last four years, but last season's team fell in the second round as a No. 1 seed. It marked an ugly return for McCallie to East Lansing, Mich., as the former Michigan State coach was booed throughout a 63-49 loss to the Spartans.

The atmosphere will be more favorable this year, with the Blue Devils on an 12-game home winning streak in NCAA play and 14-1 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2009-10. Duke has won all 16 first-round games by an average of 29.3 points.

While the Blue Devils lost three starters from last year's team, Jasmine Thomas is back. Thomas tops Duke with 15.8 points per game and scored 14 to lead the Blue Devils in last year's loss to Michigan State.

Senior forward Joy Cheek is coming on strong, averaging 12.5 points in her last six games. Krystal Thomas has also provided a spark by scoring 45 of her 47 points over the last eight games in the second half.

"I guess for me as a coach, coaching is the business of working with and developing people," McCallie said. "I have been extremely fortunate, but I don't know if I have ever been so fortunate to be at a place where these women are so bright and so eager and so wanting to do things and so smart about things overall."

Hampton (20-11) won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship to make the field for the first time since 2004. The 15th-seeded Lady Pirates are 0-3 in the NCAA tournament, and MEAC teams have not won a game in the event since 1983.

Hampton is guided by David Six - an interim coach who was running the school's intramural department at this time a year ago. The Lady Pirates have one player who averages in double figures in Quanneisha Perry, who scores 13.0 points per game.

Duke has won all three matchups with Hampton by an average of 28.0 points.

The winner plays LSU or Hartford in the second round Monday.