RTC’s East Coast Boss was courtside for Miami’s dominating 90-63 win over #2 Duke on Wednesday night.
Five Key Takeaways.
- Before the season all of the talk in the ACC was about North Carolina State, but that quickly evaporated as we saw that their run last March was nothing more than a hot streak. Duke stepped in to fill the void as the dominant team in the ACC and appeared for a while to be the best team in the country, but with Ryan Kelly’s injury which we will get to in a bit, the door to win the ACC is wide open and Miami has stepped in. After tonight the Hurricanes are two games up in the ACC with only three truly challenging games remaining — at home against North Carolina and on the road at North Carolina and Duke. While they can certainly slip up in conference road games, they are successfully positioning themselves to be in contention for the ACC regular season title. I’m still not sure how good this Hurricane team is, but they have wins over a Duke and Michigan State at home and North Carolina on the road. All of those teams have their weaknesses, but Miami is looking like it could be a very dangerous team in March.
- Duke really needs Ryan Kelly to come back. I am not sure I can emphasize that enough. Kelly won’t win any Player of the Year awards and he might not even be First Team All-ACC, but the way this Duke team is constructed they might need his presence more than any other player on the team. Mason Plumlee is by far the best all-around player on the squad, but he lacks Kelly’s versatility, which is key when your bench is as short as Duke’s. Having said all of that, Duke needs to weather this stretch without Kelly which should theoretically be close to ending based on earlier reports from the school. Of course, that says nothing of how Kelly is actually healing. If he returns at 100% Duke should be fine, but their performances thus far following his injury demonstrates just how fragile this team is.
- Reggie Johnson could be an asset to Miami down the line, but he isn’t there yet. Before the game there had been rumors that Johnson might play tonight, but it wasn’t until just before tipoff that it was apparent that he would play (he was in the lay-up line without any protection on his broken left thumb). Johnson contributed in spots primarily with his girth filling space against a small Duke front line, but his impact was largely minimal (fill in your ground-shaking jokes). Johnson was only out of the lineup for about a month, but his conditioning looks horrible. He will never run up and down the court with the Cody Zellers of the college basketball world, but Jim Larranaga should have put Johnson on the treadmill for the past month. If Johnson can regain his previous form in the next few weeks, he could insert another dimension to this team although his return could affect the obvious chemistry the Hurricanes developed without him. Read the rest of this entry »