It is like beating a dead horse, but it is the truth. Duke will not go anywhere in the postseason without Ryan Kelly. Kelly injured his foot against Clemson and has been out ever since. It has been over a month that Duke has played without Kelly and they are 7-2 in that stretch.
Duke’s play has significantly changed with the loss of Kelly and it has shown in the nine games he has missed. Yes, Duke has won seven of them, but that doesn’t mean they have looked good in those wins.
Before Kelly went down, Duke looked almost unstoppable and it beat three top five teams. They are undefeated with Kelly on the floor. The senior forward averages 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, but he also brings more to the court than just production.
The Blue Devils miss Kelly the most when it comes to defense. Before Kelly went down, Duke let up 60 points per game. After he got hurt, Duke’s defense has let up 10 more points per game than when Kelly was in the line-up. It’s not like the Blue Devils are playing better teams, they are just playing worse defense.
Last year, Kelly injured the same foot and it kept him out of the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament. In the NCAA tournament, Duke was upset in the first round by the 15 seed.
The same thing could happen this year if Kelly is unable to return. His status is still undetermined and he just started putting pressure on his foot this week.
Kelly is the piece of the puzzle Duke needs to win the national championship, but will he be there in the end?