As much as some people like to hate the Duke Blue Devils, you have to face the facts. Numbers do not lie. Duke is undefeated (16-0) when Ryan Kelly plays. When Kelly is not playing, Duke’s record is 9-4.
On Saturday night, March 2nd, 2013, it was the return of the bearded Euro-style playing forward from Raleigh, North Carolina. This is the description of Ryan Kelly, people. The kid was in beast mode against the Miami Hurricanes all night. In case you missed the wizardry, he made 10 of his 14 field goals, seven of his nine three-pointers and nine of his 12 free throws. He finished the game with 36 points and seven rebounds. He was practically unstoppable on this evening. The irony about his performance is that this was his first dose of playing time since Jan. 8th.
During Kelly’s absence, several players have stepped up their play. Rasheed Sulaimon has notched a couple of 20-point games under his belt. Although Sulaimon is streaky, he has shown the ability to be a lethal shooter from the perimeter and a big contributor. Quinn Cook has become a floor leader for Duke, which did not exist last season. His ability to hit big shots and dish the rock to his teammates has elevated Duke’s overall play. Tyler Thornton has become the “relief pitcher” and “do-it-all” guard for Duke’s backcourt. Thornton does whatever is necessary to get a win.
People expect for Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee to play well. Both of them average 17.3 points a game. However, this was not the case on Saturday night against Miami. Curry finished the game with seven points, five rebounds and three assists. He connected on two of his eight field goals. In the meantime, Plumlee posted a mediocre stat line: 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Plumlee’s performance could not be measured by statistics. He helped shut down Miami’s Reggie Johnson who did not post any points the entire game. If Plumlee would have allowed Johnson to hit two of his five field goals, then Duke would have possibly lost this game.
This is what makes Duke a team to watch out for in March. Teams cannot double team or key-in on one player because you never know who is going to be “their guy.”