The Duke basketball team faces a quick turnaround tonight as the Blue Devils take on the Miami Hurricanes in Coral Gables after Saturday’s win at N.C. State.
Time: 7:00pm ET
Where: BankUnited Center, Coral Gables, Fl.
Watch: ESPN/Watch ESPN
When you looked at this game in the preseason, saying it would be a big opportunity for one of these teams to get a signature win that would help build a NCAA Tournament resume, that would have made sense.
I just don’t think many people thought Duke would be the one needing the win and Miami would be the team that would qualify as a signature win. But, that’s where we are.
While the Blue Devils were impressive in snapping their three-game losing streak at N.C. State on Saturday, they’ll be facing a different level of test on Monday night.
Miami is 15-3 overall and 4-2 in the ACC, with those two losses coming the road to Clemson and Virginia. It’s four conference wins have all been by double digits.
As usual, Miami head coach Jim Larranaga has done a tremendous job of getting the most out of the talent on his roster, and he has one of the more explosive backcourts in the ACC in Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Ja’Quan Newton.
Fans only need to remember back to last season, when the Miami guards carved up the Duke defense en-route to a 90-74 drubbing that snapped Duke’s 41-game home winning streak.
The Hurricanes also have one of the most underrated post players in the ACC in Tonye Jekiri, who’s averaging 8.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game. As much as college basketball is built on superstars who don’t last more than a year or two, unheralded guys like Jekiri deserve tons of credit for hard work and developing over the course of a full college career.
Unfortunately for Duke, Jekiri could be a huge problem for the Blue Devils tonight in the paint. His matchup with Marshall Plumlee will be key and the Duke center has to do everything he can to avoid foul trouble.
If Mike Krzyzewski elects to use a zone defense again (like what we saw in Raleigh on Saturday), Duke will have to stay at home on Sheldon McClellan on the perimeter, where he’s shooting almost 40% this season. Newton is another threat from the outside at nearly 37%.
Unless you want to count the game against Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, this is an opportunity for Duke to get its first signature win of the season. A victory on the road over a Miami team ranked in the Top 15 in both polls and No. 11 in Kenpom would be a huge step for the Blue Devils.
Kenpom predicts an 81-75 victory for the Hurricanes, while Vegas has Miami around a 3-point favorite. On SCACCHoops.com, the Game Simulator is averaging a 78-72 Miami victory.
The numbers are pointing toward the Hurricanes, and they definitely have the advantage in the paint and a tough home court environment.
Miami is the team that should win. Let’s see if Duke can thrive in the role of the underdog and how the Hurricanes will handle the pressure of being the hunted.