With a loss to Virginia, Duke needs a win against Miami if they want a number one seed come Selection Sunday. Last time the two played however, Duke was embarrassed 90-63.
Miami used that victory to springboard their way into a top-5 ranking, while many started to question whether Duke was National Championship caliber without a healthy Ryan Kelly. The Hurricanes have cruised through ACC play aside from an upset loss to Wake Forest, while Duke has losses to MIami, NC State, Maryland, and now Virginia.
Let’s look at the match up between the two that can be dubbed the college basketball game of the weekend.
Miami (5) at Duke (3), Cameroon Indoor Stadium, 6:00 p.m. EST, ESPN
Duke has a more explosive and efficient offense, but obviously that did not mean anything the last time these two met. Ryan Kelly, who practiced this week, looks like he won’t play until March 5 against Virginia Tech, but it is smart for Duke not to rush him back. It would make more sense to break him in against a bad V-Tech team on Senior Night.
This year’s Duke team is no different than past years. The Blue Devils shoot around 18 threes a game and four players (Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook) do the bulk of the scoring. Plumlee is the biggest offensive threat, but Curry can be equally as dangerous. Yet Miami completely shut down Curry in the January 23 blowout, where he missed all 10 shot attempts and finished with zero points. In a game that they would lose, it showed how important Curry is to their success.
At point guard, Cook has played exceptionally well, but he also struggled against the Hurricanes defensive pressure in the first game. On the season, he averages 12 points, 5.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Jefferson is way more of a threat on the offensive end, possessing length that helps him score inside, but both he and bench-forward Alex Murphy are pivotal to the Blue Devils’ success. If they can provide any sort of scoring to remove pressure from Plumlee, it opens up options for the entire team. They each scored 10-plus points in Duke’s loss to Miami earlier in the season, as starters were unable to stabilize their solid offensive contributions.
Larkin is the most versatile, (36.1 MPG, 4.3 APG and 3.9 RPG, while shooting 42.4 percent from 3), Scott is the best defensively (34.5 MPG, 4.1 RPG and 2.8 APG), and Kadji is the inside presence (29.1 MPG, 6.4 RPG, while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and he can make threes.)
Out of these three, Kadji is a tough cover for Duke because of his outside shooting ability. He made two threes in the first meeting, and had a career-high 22.
Aside from that trio, Trey McKinney Jones, Reggie Johnson, and Julian Gamble help with scoring. Jones had 10 points when Miami beat Duke, Johnson is a 292-pound center who is a monster on the glass (7.9 RPG), and Gamble is another big man and had 10 rebounds the first time they met. If Johnson, Gamble, and Kadji can grab offensive rebounds and turn them into easy second chance points, Duke will have to make size adjustments in their lineup all night.
Both teams are excellent at taking care of the ball. In their last meeting, Duke only yielded 10 turnovers in a loss, while actually forced Miami into 16.
Miami allows 59.2 points per game, while Duke allows 64.9.
When Miami faced Duke, they kept their energy level high for the entire game. Maybe it was because they were at home, or maybe it was because they wanted to make a statement, but Miami played a full 40-minutes of high pressure basketball.
Gamble, Johnson and Kadji will give Plumlee fits inside. If Duke had Kelly, they could space the floor much better, but Plumlee had a very good game regardless when they met in January. He finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but he had four turnovers. Miami needs to pressure Plumlee whenever he touches the ball, and they will probably double-team him, especially if Hairston is in the game.
In the last meeting, Miami’s guards outhustled Duke’s and that was the difference. Duke has the disadvantage because they lack perimeter size, but if they want to win this game, Curry, Cook, Sulaimon, and Tyler Thornton will have to play tough defense.
Both Scott and Jones are 6’5’’ and they both will cover Curry. If they shut him down again, there is no way Duke can win.
Larkin v. Cook
Two of the most exciting players in the ACC will square off at point guard. Larkin, as stated above, can do everything, and Cook has turned into a remarkable floor general throughout the course of this season. Larkin will get his, but if Cook can limit Larkin’s assists and force some turnovers then it will only benefit the Blue Devils.
Key Player for Duke: Seth Curry
Curry is without a doubt the key for Duke in this one. He will have to deal with Scott and Jones on defense, and may have to occasionally cover Larkin on the defensive end. But Curry needs to find his shot against the taller defenders. If he shoots anything similar to what his brother did on Wednesday, then the Blue Devils will win.
Key Player for Miami: Durant Scott
Scott has been the man in Miami for sometime now. The senior from the Bronx has averaged double-figures for the Hurricanes since his freshman year in 2009, though he has been inconsistent the last couple of weeks. Saturday is a perfect time for Scott to show case how good he, and his team, both are.
I would be much more comfortable picking Duke if Ryan Kelly were playing, but having said that I think the Blue Devils win. Miami has the build up of a Final Four team and the Hurricanes will give the Blue Devils all that they can handle and then some. But I think Duke will make their threes, and that has always led to success for Coach K and company.
Duke 74 Miami 68