- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2011

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Duke’s path to a second straight national championship will take the Blue Devils west.

The Atlantic Coast Conference champions claimed the No. 1 seed in the West Regional on Sunday night when the NCAA announced its 68-team tournament field.

The Blue Devils (30-4) will stay close to home in the state of North Carolina for the opening weekend. They will face Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Hampton in the second round Friday in Charlotte.

If they get past the 16th-seeded Pirates and the Michigan-Tennessee winner, they’ll be headed to Anaheim, Calif., for the West Regional semifinals.

Duke beat rival North Carolina earlier Sunday to win the ACC tournament title for the third straight year, and that helped the Blue Devils edge out Notre Dame for the fourth No. 1 seed.

Duke holds a top seed for the second straight year and the 12th time overall, and the Blue Devils are in the tournament for the 27th time in 28 years and for the 16th straight season.

Shortly after Duke’s 75-58 victory over North Carolina for the ACC title in Greensboro, forward Mason Plumlee said he felt his team deserved a No. 1 seed.

“But at the same time, it doesn’t matter where we end up,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to the tournament. One seed, 2 seed, 3 seed, we’ll be ready to play.”

Coach Mike Krzyzewski agreed, saying after the win against UNC that he didn’t know how the seeding was going to play out.

“We’re 30-4 and we won the ACC. We probably should be (a No. 1),” he said, “but if we’re not, we’re not. I’m OK. Let’s just … figure out where the heck we’re going and start 0-0 again.”

Among the biggest obstacles to his 12th Final Four and fifth national championship include possible regional semifinal opponent Texas, the No. 4 seed.

A pair of other powerful conference champions _ No. 2 seed and Mountain West winner San Diego State, and No. 3 seed and Big East champ Connecticut _ are in the other half of the West bracket and loom as potential regional final opponents.

The Blue Devils hope they can follow their ACC title with another national championship, just as they did last year when that late-peaking group got hot down the stretch and rolled to Indianapolis. They held off Butler _ and the Bulldogs’ halfcourt heave at the buzzer _ to win their fourth title, all since 1991.

Two starters from that team _ Kyle Singler, the most outstanding player at the Final Four, and Nolan Smith, this year’s ACC player of the year _ helped propel the Blue Devils to their ACC-record 19th league tournament crown with three convincing wins in three days at the Greensboro Coliseum. That came after they lost two of three to close the regular season, including one at North Carolina that gave the outright regular-season title to the Tar Heels.

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