Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Hurricanes (23-4, 14-1) head to Duke for their last road game of the season against the Blue Devils (24-4, 11-4). The game can be seen on ESPN at 6:00 or heard on 560 WQAM. Miami trails the all time series 15-4 but leads the season series 1-0.
A month and a half after the last time Miami played Duke, I’m still not entirely sure what happened the first time. I mean… In a million years, I never would’ve believed that a Miami basketball team would have beaten a Duke basketball team by 27. On national television. In front of the whole country.
You know who else wouldn’t have believed it? Duke.
But you know what you can believe? They’re not happy about it. They’re not happy about Miami embarrassing them. They’re not happy about Miami slapping the floor, which is a patented Duke trademark. They’re not happy about the court storming. They’re not happy about anything, and you can believe that they will have that on their mind when the two teams take the floor Saturday inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Before I go any further, I just want to get this out there: Duke almost never loses at home. They’re 44-3 at home in the past three seasons, with all three losses coming last season, including a loss at the hands of these Miami Hurricanes. So yeah, Miami can beat Duke at home, but I don’t think it’s particularly likely. With that said …
Duke Scouting Report
The last meeting between these two teams was one giant statistical anomaly. As a team, Duke shoots 47.6% from the field. Against Miami? 29.7%. The Blue Devils make 41.6% of their threes. Against Miami? 17.4%.
Give Miami credit – they were dominant on the defensive end – but still. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Even if Miami comes out with the same game plan and executes just as well, I don’t think you could convince me that Duke would shoot THAT poorly from the field again. Holding them below their season averages is one thing, what we did to them in the last game is another.
On a normal night, Duke is an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, they’re solid, but their offense is significantly better than their defense. The Blue Devils average 1.14 points per possession, which is good for 8th in the nation. In conference play, against better competition, they’ve averaged 1.13 points per possession. So yeah – they’re legit. I mentioned their three point numbers earlier, but I’ll mention them again, just for good measure – they make almost 42% of their threes, which ranks them 4th in the country. That’s a pretty high percentage, in case that wasn’t clear.
On defense, the Blue Devils are good, but nothing to write home about. They allow 0.94 points per possession, which is 53rd in the country. In the last meeting, Miami shot 57% from the field, which is absurdly high. The Canes average 46% shooting on any given night, which still ranks them in the top 60 for the country, but 57% is definitely an outlier.
Also, and this is just a personal theory, I have nothing to back this up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan Kelly play in this game. He’s an instrumental part of this Duke team, and they were without him in the last matchup of these two squads. Kelly can score both from inside and beyond the arc, and he’s a solid rebounder as well. Remember how Miami surprised everybody by playing Reggie Johnson against Duke? I feel like Duke has something similar in store.
Key for the Canes
Cover the arc. This post sounds a lot like me saying that the last win was a fluke, and I apologize for that. I don’t think that it was a fluke. Miami is talented enough and well coached enough to beat Duke, but the way we did it last time was a bit fluky. Miami isn’t 27 points better than Duke, and the sooner we accept that, the easier it’ll be to put the rematch in to context.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the Canes were able to run away with the last game was that they defended Duke from behind the three point line so well. Duke’s offense is at it’s best when they’re shooting (and making) threes, because it frees them up to feed Mason Plumlee inside. If you take that away from them, you can beat them. The Canes have the bodies to beat Duke inside, it’s just a matter of executing. Even though Duke shot uncharacteristically bad the last time these two teams played, Durand Scott and Shane Larkin have both proven to be excellent perimeter defenders who should be able to at least contain Cook, Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon from deep.
My blind homerism probably has a lot to do with this prediction, but even with the Cameron Crazies going… Crazy… In this game, I feel like the Canes will leave Duke victorious. It won’t be easy, and the Canes will have to avoid serious scoring droughts like we’ve seen them go through over the past few weeks (especially the one we saw against VT, where we didn’t make a field goal for 10+ minutes), but I think it can be done. Final score: Miami 80 – 74