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Looking Forward to the Big Week Ahead

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We've learned a lot about Hurricanes Hoops in the last few weeks. With visits from perennial powerhouse Duke and undefeated Syracuse on tap this week, we are about to learn even more.

Scott Cunningham

One week and two games, seldom make or break a season.

Especially if you are a team that is "rebuilding" and playing with house money.

However, looking ahead to Miami's visits from #23 Duke and #2 Syracuse, one can not deny that this is likely the week that Coach L and the Hurricanes either cement themselves as surprising contenders and potential NCAA Tournament qualifiers, or fall back to the pack as a plucky also ran.

But before we look ahead, we would be remiss to not look back at what this team has already accomplished. Remember this is a team the Coaches picked to finish 12th in the ACC, before Deandre Burnett was lost for the season.

Bolstered by the recent transition to a very effective match-up zone, the 'Canes have become a force defending their own basket.

Through 17 games, Miami is 9th Nationally, allowing just 58.5 points a game (an even better 54.5 ppg in conference games only).

Opponents are also shooting just 39.1% from the floor against UM's stingy defense.

Individually, Donnavan Kirk has looked like arguably the best player on the court in his last two outings, averaging 17.5 ppg 6 rpg, 2 bpg, and shooting a sizzling hot 77% (14-18) from the floor and 4-6 from deep.

Manu LeComte has shaken off his freshman jitters to evolve into a bona fide ACC point guard. LeComte led the way against Georgia Tech on Saturday with a career high 16 points, to go with 4 rebounds, and 3 assists. More importantly he carried the team in crunch time and proved he could handle the pressure.

Tonye Jekiri is not putting up huge numbers, but has become a presence down low. The 7 footer has been foul prone of late, but looks much more comfortable on both ends of the court then early in the season.

Erik Swoope has been a revelation the last few games as a high energy reserve, and Rion Brown has sparkled as the team's leading scorer (14.1 ppg) and best all-around player.

Put it all together and you have a team that no Coach in the ACC is looking forward to facing.

This includes legends Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski.

Boeheim's Orange learned first hand how stingy that zone can be when they barely knocked off the Hurricanes in a 49-44 win on January 4th, a game that UM led and controlled a good portion of the way.

Coach K and the Devils certainly remember the beating they endured at the BUC, last January 23rd, when the ACC Champs squashed them 90-63 in a game that wasn't even that close.

That being said, both teams should come to Coral Gables with confidence.

The Cuse, despite some close calls, are undefeated and coming off a solid 59-54 win over Pittsburgh behind the clutch play of freshman PG Tyler Ennis.

"Ennis has huge stones, and nothing seems to rattle him. His 16 points Saturday afternoon were some of the hardest fought he’ll ever score, and SU needed every one of them to pull out the win" - Jeremy Ryan of SB Nation's Syracuse site, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.

Trevor Cooney and CJ Fair continue to play at high levels, and Rakeem Christmas (SU's version of Jekiri) chipped in 10 points against the Panthers.

Duke will be coming to town off of one of their best performances of the season, a 95-60 drubbing of NC State.

Any team with the talents of players like Jabari Parker, Rasheed Sulaiman, and Rodney Hood is more then capable of putting up huge points every time out.

"After the convincing victory over NC State there is a lot of optimism among the Duke fan base that this team might begin to start showing the kind of team we expected at the beginning of the year. However, one of the traits of this team has been inconsistency and they have not played particularly well on the road, especially in conference play, so there is still a wait and see mentality going forward." - Mike Kline, Duke Sports Blog.

To add to the intrigue, both games are expected to be sell outs.

So how good is this Hurricanes team? Are they good enough to continue putting scares into the big boys of the conference? Good enough to steal a few wins from National contenders? Or only good enough to avoid being called a "bad loss" by Dickie V?

This week we find out.