There is a very good chance that when the new polls come out on Monday that current No. 3 Duke, who had held the No. 1 spot for 5 weeks early this season, could be back on top.
The Blue Devils who are 16-1 won their only game this week, a 73-57 victory over Georgia Tech, but the two teams ranked ahead of them in the polls, Indiana and Louisville both lost. The Hoosiers dropped a home game against Wisconsin while the Cardinals who had held the No. 1 spot this past week were knocked off by Syracuse.
It certainly would appear that if they take the next team down it would be Duke, but while the Blue Devils may ascend back to the top spot in the polls they are not the best team in the country, at least not right now.
Back when Duke first took the No. 1 ranking they were clearly the best team in the country having beaten three Top 5 teams in the process including the current top team, Louisville. Then the Blue Devils suffered the loss of Ryan Kelly to a foot injury and that changed the entire dynamic of the team. They immediately went out and lost to NC State and the No. 1 ranking was gone.
Duke didn’t fall far, only to No. 3, but there were serious doubt about how good they could be without Kelly. Those questions didn’t disappear in the victory over the Yellow Jackets this past Thursday. The Blue Devils came out and got knocked back by Georgia Tech who ended up taking a 1-point lead into the half time break.
The offense still looked rough without Kelly and the team’s top player for most of the year, Mason Plumlee, was not playing particularly well. Duke would respond in the second half and got solid performances from the remaining key players and freshman Amile Jefferson whose first half play got him the second-half start.
The Blue Devils eventually pulled away and that victory may have been enough with the aforementioned losses by those that sit above them in the polls to get them back to No. 1. However, lets be honest it was a victory over Georgia Tech who isn’t exactly an ACC juggernaut this season.
No offense to the Yellow Jackets, but it simply wasn’t an impressive enough victory in my mind to move them ahead of Michigan who, despite some of my own reservations regarding the Wolverines, have been playing the best basketball in the country of late.
Duke is still trying to figure out who they are without Kelly and they still have a long way to go before they fully know what kind of team they will end up being and it is still too early to know if that team with Kelly, which was clearly the top team in the country, will ever been seen from again.
There is talk that Kelly could be back by early to mid February, but until he steps back on the court for a few games and the Blue Devils reintegrate him into the lineup, the current Duke team is good, but they aren’t the best team right now.
This weeks game against Miami in Miami will go a long way toward telling us if Duke is going to make a serious run without Kelly. If Duke goes down to South Beach and comes away with an impressive victory then I might be willing to say they are deserving of the top spot. However, if they win ugly or if they lose, then that top spot, if they do in fact get it back on Monday will likely be short lived.