Miami Squares Off With Nation’s Number One Team: Duke

Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes (13-3) return home to the Bank United Center to face off with the Duke Blue Devils (16-1). The game can be seen on ESPN or via the Watch ESPN app at 7:00 PM EST. Miami trails the all time series 18-3.

It’s D-Day, y’all. That’s right: it’s Duke day. For weeks now, Miami fans have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on Duke, and the day has finally arrived. Canes nation has been begging for this team to become nationally ranked for weeks, and finally, the voters have come to their senses and voted UM #25 in the AP poll. With a win tonight, the Canes would cement their spot in the rankings for weeks to come.

Duke Scouting Report

I’m just going to throw some stats at you really quickly.

* Duke ranks 15th in the nation in offensive efficiency, at 113.1 points per 100 possessions. By comparison, Miami ranks 115th, at 103.8.

* The Blue Devils turn the ball over on 16.2% of possessions, tied for 10th best in the country. Miami, by comparison, ranks 14th best in the nation at 16.6%.

* Duke makes an unbelievable 42.2% of their threes, which ranks 4th in the nation. I’ll spare you Miami’s ranking, because you’re just going to feel bad about yourself. The good news, however, is that the Canes hold opponents to 31.1% on three point attempts, good for 81st in the nation.

* The Blue Devils convert 47% of their field goals overall, which ranks them 28th in the nation. MORE GOOD NEWS THOUGH. Miami holds opponents to 37.5% shooting, which ranks 16th in the country.

After reading those numbers, you probably don’t feel too great. Or maybe you do, if you’re a Duke fan. Here’s the moral of the story: Duke is really, really good. They’ve lost one game, on the road, in a hostile environment, to the #14 team in the country. They hold wins over the #2, #3 and #4 team in the country (at the time, at least. Louisville, Kentucky and Ohio State are those teams). They also hold wins over VCU and Minnesota, who have emerged in recent weeks. So, you might say that Duke is pretty good. Just a little bit.

One area that Duke is relatively weak in is rebounding. Duke outrebounds their opponents by an average of 0.6 per game. While Miami isn’t great (they only have a rebounding differential of +0.8), it is an area that Miami can look to exploit. It would certainly help to have Reggie Johnson for this game, but that obviously can’t be changed, so Miami will have to make do with what they’ve got.

And, to make you feel a little better:

* Duke lost their one game this season without senior forward Ryan Kelly. The good news for Canes fans? Kelly is out again tonight. Kelly averages 13 points and 5 rebounds a game, on 47% shooting from the field and an incredible 52% from behind the three point line. Duke is a different team without Kelly on the floor, and that bodes well for Miami.

Key For The Canes

Cover the arc. Taking a look at the Duke-NC State box score, the thing that really jumps out at me is that Duke only shot 6-20 behind the 3 point line, and 5 of those were made by Seth Curry. NC State only outrebounded Duke by 2. They turned the ball over only one fewer time than the Blue Devils. If you force Duke to score from inside, they’re going to struggle. Their outside game sets up their inside game, and if they can’t get that going, the Canes have a great chance.

One other thing I noticed is that NC State made 20 of 23 free throws. Miami has been, uh, not good in this regard lately. The Canes shoot 67% on free throws as a team, which ranks them 240th in the nation. To beat a team like Duke, you need to take what they give you. If Miami is successful in getting to the line, they need to convert those chances. Those are the easiest shot in the game. Miami has to convert.

One more thing: Miami often rests Kenny Kadji and Julian Gamble at the same time. That’s fine. But against Duke, the Canes are really going to need to weather the storm when they go without both of those guys. When Gamble and Kadji both sit, the Canes often have trouble scoring, and if Duke gets on an 8-0 run or a 10-0 run with those guys on the bench, it’s really tough to come back from that against such a good team. Miami is going to have to play really smart when they play without those guys.

Prediction

Beating Duke will not be easy, by any stretch of the word. Miami is going to have to bring their A++ game. Here’s the thing, though: I think they will. Everybody on this team, from top to bottom, is aware of how good they can be, and they know how much this game means, not just for this season, but for the program. Maybe I’m just a homer (and by that I mean I am a homer), but I really see the Canes taking this one. I fully expect the Canes to come out ready to play, and ultimately take this game 66-59.

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