The ACC Tournament is set to tip off with opening-round games set for Thursday. The matchup of interest will be between Maryland and Wake Forest as they battle for the right to advance to the quarterfinals where Duke will be awaiting their next challenger. But which team is the better matchup for the Blue Devils?
The answer seems obvious: Wake Forest. Duke beat the Demon Deacons both times they played this season and only struggled a bit when they traveled to “The Joel” before pulling away for the 75-70 victory.
But shouldn’t that be a bit of concern as well? Had Mason Plumlee scored 26 points instead of the career-best 32 he tallied the game would have ended with Duke in a much different position than they sit in now. Wake was resilient in defeat and while their record may not reflect it, their wins over Miami and NC State prove they could be a tough out in this tournament.
Still, Wake has to be a better matchup than Maryland, a team that already beat Duke this season. Right? Alex Len is as legitimate a post player as there is in the country and Seth Allen‘s performance when the Terps knocked off Duke in College Park may be the perfect way to look at his season (16 points, eight turnovers).
The common denominator between the scare in Winston-Salem and the loss in College Park? Road games. Duke has been a notoriously bad road team this season with each of their losses coming away from Cameron. Fortunately, the road games are gone and all that is left are neutral floors with balanced cheering sections.
Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry have seen everything in their four years on campus as Blue Devils and it’s a good bet that small factions of fans in big, pro arenas won’t unsettle them in the slightest. With this group of seniors at the helm, it doesn’t matter who Duke faces in the quarters, semis or finals of the ACC Tournament.
The cream rises to the top and so will the Blue Devils.