We are down to the final four games of the regular season. This week Duke travels to Virginia on Thursday for a showdown with the Cavaliers and come home Saturday for a rematch against the Hurricanes. These two games in particular will help determine Duke’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament and could play a key role in determining seeding in the ACC Tournament.
Duke will face Virginia for the first time this season (I hate they don’t play home and home with all conference opponents. The joys of conference expansion). It will be a clash of styles as Virginia likes to play Big 10 basketball whereas Duke wants to get you out in transition. This game will also feature a matchup of two ACC Player of the Year Candidates in Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Virginia’s Joe Harris. If Duke wants to leave Virginia with a W they must contain Harris, who is averaging over 16.5 points a game. If Duke can force turnovers early in the shot clock and get out in transition, I think they can take control of the game. If they can’t and they are forced to grind it out in the halfcourt, they can still win but they are playing the style of basketball Virginia wants. I see our bigs being a main factor in the game to help get Akil Mitchell in early foul trouble and to minimize their inside presence. If Duke takes control of the tempo I can see them winning 75-65. If they don’t, I see them winning 60-55 with a strong possibility for a Virginia upset. One of the main worries will be Duke looking ahead to their rematch with Miami.
Miami suffered their first ACC conference loss of the season on Saturday at Wake Forest. A loss that many believe was coming, especially with Miami’s play in the last several games. Since their blowout of UNC, they went down to the wire against FSU, Clemson, Virginia before finally losing to Wake. Miami gets a tune-up game if you will at home against Virginia Tech before they travel to Durham on Saturday. Duke will still be without Ryan Kelly for the game. I think Duke plays better at home obviously than they did in Miami, but they are not guaranteed a win. Quinn Cook must contain Shane Larkin and the Blue Devils must find a way to stop Miami’s bigs, especially Kenny Kadji who lit Duke up for 22 pts. in their first matchup. This game will be much closer than the previous matchup with Duke winning, I believe. 75-70. This would bring the Blue Devils within one game of Miami (if Duke wins at Virginia) for the lead in the ACC and also help keep distance between them and third place.
Ryan Kelly is targeting Senior Night as his possible return to action. Coach K has said he will return this regular season, but won’t be available this week. That leaves Senior Night and the final game of the regular season against UNC on Saturday, March 9th. I hope he can return for Senior Night not only for him, but for the team to give them at least one game back together before they head to Chapel Hill. If Kelly can come through the ACC Tournament healthy, then Duke has a real shot for not only making the Final Four, but winning the National Championship.
Chris Summerville is originally from Indian Trail, NC and currently resides in Monroe, NC. He has been a lifetime Duke fan and knows exactly what he was doing when Christian Laettner crushed the hopes and dreams of Kentucky fans (and Aminu Timberlake’s intestines). Chris graduated from UNC Asheville in 2003 with a degree in Multimedia Arts & Sciences. By day he is Creative Director for one of the major billiard companies in the US. By night he prowls the interwebs as the Duke of Hoops. Chris can often be found on Twitter arguing with UNC fans.