DUKE BLUE DEVILS (22-6)
at MIAMI HURRICANES (19-8)
BankUnited Center – Coral Gables, FL
Tip-off: Saturday, 4:00 pm ET
#10 Duke will look for a season sweep over Miami when they travel to Coral Gables on Saturday.
Like Syracuse on Wednesday night, Miami will be looking for a season-defining (and NCAA Tournament solidifying) win on Saturday when they host the Blue Devils. Already boasting a home win over #9 North Carolina, as well as a road victory over #18 Virginia, Miami’s resume can probably withstand a loss to the #10 Blue Devils, but a win on Saturday would make the Hurricanes’ NCAA resume fairly airtight. Miami comes into Saturday’s contest winners in five of their last six games (4-2 ATS), although they are just 9-16 ATS on the season. Miami’s impressive Monday road win over Virginia (54-48, MIA +7.5) was done without G Ja’Quon Newton (15 PPG, 3.6 APG) while he served his last game in a three game suspension by Coach Jim Larranaga for “conduct detrimental to the team”. Newton will be eligible to return for Saturday’s game. At 9-6 in conference play, Miami can enter the conversation for a double-bye in the ACC tournament and join four teams clogged in the ACC standings with 10 wins. Duke, 10-5 in ACC play, saw their regular season ACC title hopes take a huge hit with their loss at the buzzer in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night. The Blue Devils now sit two games behind 12-4 North Carolina. That said, Duke is playing excellent basketball over the last month, winning eight of their last 10 games (two losses by a combined five points). The win to start this recent run was a 70-58 defeat of these Hurricanes (Duke -10) on Jan. 21. Duke forced Miami into 18 turnovers while the Hurricanes shot only 7-for-15 from the charity stripe, contributing to a sloppy loss for Coach Larranaga’s group. Miami returns home for the rematch where they’re 13-2 this season but just 4-10 ATS. Duke, meanwhile, is 4-4 (3-5 ATS) on the road to date and 4-10 ATS overall in their last 14 games. Historically, while Duke had completely dominated this matchup between 2005 and 2011 (11-1 straight-up, 6-6 ATS), Miami has made things very interesting the past five seasons. The Hurricanes hold a 4-3 edge (5-2 ATS) including Duke’s win last month. Since the start of the 2012 season, that includes a 2-1 (2-1 ATS) home mark. Miami was an underdog in six of these seven games, including a 90-63 home blowout of Duke in Jan. 2013. Miami is 10-3 ATS against Duke since Feb. 2008.
While Coach Krzyzewski’s team has been playing very well, ascending to the top 10 in the AP poll and threatening for an ACC crown, every team reacts differently to losing in such dramatic fashion as Duke did on Wednesday against Syracuse. Duke will now have to travel to Coral Gables, a place where they’ve had limited success in recent years. The Hurricanes have an elite defense, and were able to stay in the game in Cameron Indoor this season, all while shooting uncharacteristically poor from the free throw line and mishandling the basketball on offense. The Blue Devils had four double-figure scorers against Miami in their January win, but have to be alarmed at how some key players have been performing as of late. Besides the sterling play of F Jayson Tatum (16.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and G Luke Kennard (20.1 PPG, 46.0% 3PT), Duke currently just doesn’t have a reliable third (or fourth, or fifth) option. Former captain Grayson Allen (15.0 PPG) has regressed to just 8.0 PPG (9-for-39 FG) in his last four games (after a 25-point outing in a win over North Carolina). At 38.7% FG, Allen is shooting the worst percentage of his career and his scoring average is down a full six points per game from last year. While Allen is also a non-factor on defense, F Amile Jefferson (11.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and G Matt Jones (7.8 PPG, 1.6 SPG) are really only factors on defense. After languishing in single figures in seven out of his previous eight games before Saturday’s win over Wake Forest, Jefferson at least seems to be breaking out of his offensive funk (16 points against Wake Forest, 14 against Syracuse). It’s fair to wonder, however, the toll it takes on Dukes offense to consistently give Jones the 34 minutes per game he’s receiving. The senior guard’s scoring is down almost three points per game, and his three point shooting has severely regressed (35.0% 3PT). Talented freshmen like G Frank Jackson and the recovering Harry Giles seem deserving of more playing time to diversify Duke’s attack, as they shot an ACC-season low 39.1% FG on Wednesday night.
Coach Larranaga faces a quandary about how to incorporate back his star junior point guard in Newton. Miami went undefeated without him, deploying solid freshman G Bruce Brown (11.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.3 APG) to run the offense. Brown took his lumps (10 assists; 10 turnovers) but led the team with 14 points (9-of-10 FT) and the game-winning three in the overtime win on Monday at Virginia. With the 6’5” Brown, 6’6” G Davon Reed (15.4 PPG, 40.2% 3PT) and a frontcourt that stands at 6’7”, 6’8”, and 6’10”, Miami’s length posed serious problems to opponents without starting the 6’2” Newton. The Hurricanes held Clemson and Virginia to 17.6% 3PT and 25.0% 3PT respectively in their last two contests with this rangy defensive lineup. In addition, Miami potentially found a key new weapon in their rotation in the absence of Newton with freshman sharpshooter Dejan Vasiljevic (5.9 PPG), who averaged 9.3 points in extended minutes over his past three games. Vasiljevic hit the game-tying three with a minute left in regulation against Virginia. Reed, Brown and Newton combined for 47 of Miami’s 58 points in their first loss to Duke this season, as Reed (5-for-8 3PT) was effective from deep while Brown added six assists. That said, Newton and Reed combined for eight turnovers. F Kamari Murphy (7.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG) added a season-high 15 rebounds in the loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the well-traveled fifth year transfer from Oklahoma State has started to consistently contribute on the offensive end (10.8 PPG over his last five games).