Abridged Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke Blue Devils vs. Miami Hurricanes – January 25, 2016

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Abridged Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (15-5, 4-3] vs. Miami Hurricanes (15-3, 4-2]

Monday, January 25, 2016 • 7:00 PM • ESPN • Miami, FL • BankUnited Center

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson.]

A Look at Miami

Maybe, despite coaches’ warnings not to look ahead, the looming “Big Monday” ESPN game against Duke had the Hurricanes distracted. Maybe, as University of Miami coach Jim Larrañaga had insisted all week, Wake Forest is much better than its 1-6 conference record.

Or maybe Saturday’s noon start caught the Canes half asleep. The rest of the UM student body sure didn’t jump out of bed fired up, based on the empty seats at BankUnited Center. Afterward, Larrañaga asked: “Where were our students today? Sleeping in?”

Whatever the reason, the 15th-ranked Canes took a long time to get comfortable Saturday before finally putting the Demon Deacons away 77-63.

Miami (15-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) let an 11-point lead shrink to two just before halftime, missed a bunch of layups early in the second half, and the score was tied 48-48 with 10 minutes to go.

That’s when the Hurricanes clamped down on defense, and Sheldon McClellan and Ja’Quan Newton shifted up a gear. McClellan, who had just four points and one rebound at halftime, wound up with 14 points, six rebounds and three steals. Newton led all scorers with 18 points, 13 of them in the second half.

Angel Rodriguez added 14 points and five steals. And the Canes made 24 of their 28 free throws.

The Demon Decons’ shooting percentage dropped from 48 percent in the first half to 31 percent in the second half. And their record fell to 10-9 with the loss.

At 48-48, Newton leaped for an offensive rebound off a missed Rodriguez shot and scored to put UM ahead by two. On the next possession, Kamari Murphy grabbed a defensive rebound off a missed Wake Forest three-pointer and Rodriguez laid it in to open the Canes’ lead to four.

The next play best demonstrated McClellan’s competitive spirit and second-half energy. He outraced two Wake Forest players who were all the way across the court trying to avoid a backcourt violation, got fouled, made both free throws and the UM lead was up to six.

Larrañaga told his team at halftime to pick up its energy, get stops, be happy and have fun. The coaching staff has been urging the players to relax and have fun the past few days. At practice Friday they played the song,Don’t Worry, Be Happy. And then before Saturday’s game they pumpedHappy by Pharrell Williams into the locker room. It was playing again after the win.

But the celebration won’t last long, with Duke ahead.

Duke Looking Forward

Many Duke fans feel like the sky is falling and are wondering if we will even we get an NIT bid. Hold on! The fact is that with 11 regular-season conference games still ahead, it’s obviously too early for fans to start reacting as if there is an anxiety attack.

Even taking into account the ‘iffy’ six-man rotation, Marshall Plumlee having to work far too many minutes in the low post and the fact that freshman playmaker Derryck Thornton is getting an on-the-job indoctrination to the ACC, the Blue Devils still have enough offensive potential to turn their 3-3 league record into a 12- or 13-win finish.

Mike Krzyzewski has coached his way through trials of this nature a lot of times before, and he’s accomplished it a lot of times when forced to use patchwork personnel rotations. Even last season’s NCAA title team that finished 35-4 went through a 3-3 January stretch that included successive double-digit losses to N.C. State (87-75) and Miami (90-74).

Thus far, all three ACC losses have been close, by five points to Clemson, four to Notre Dame and two to Syracuse on Monday.

Last season’s team had Tyus Jones at the point, a reasonably deep bench and Amile Jefferson available to take some of the interior burden off Jahlil Okafor.

This team is less talented overall and lost its Quinn Cook leadership model, plus a lot of its workable depth , when Jefferson suffered a broken right foot in mid-December.

What hasn’t changed is the difficult conference schedule and the reality that if there’s going to be a quick turnaround, it’s going to have to be done outside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

With the game at State on Saturday, a Monday trip to Miami, and a February 2 game at Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils are embarking on their longest road stretch of the year. It’s fairly rare that ACC teams get three straight games at home or on the road, but Duke is an exception this season on both fronts. Following the February 2 game in Atlanta, the Devils return to Durham for successive home games against State, Louisville and Virginia.

The unbalanced schedule is due in part to the fact that the first Duke-UNC game this season falls very late again (February 17 in Chapel Hill). It’s part of the price the two programs pay for being the league’s two primary meal tickets in basketball, and that isn’t going to change unless and until another ACC team can attract television audiences to rival those of the Tar Heels and Blue Devils.

But another part of that same ratings equation is something Krzyzewski and Roy Williams don’t like but can’t change, top-heavy league schedules. Just the simple fact that Duke and UNC have to play each other twice each season, makes it unavoidable that their league schedules will be among the toughest.

State is thrown into that mix this season by virtue of the fact that the Wolfpack has to play both neighborhood rivals twice. The Wolfpack also have two games against Florida State, which looked a lot tougher on paper in preseason than is the case now.

Duke’s league draw is just the opposite, tougher now than it looked a few months ago, given the road trips to Clemson, Miami and Pitt in addition to the home-away series against State, Louisville and Carolina.

So pulling out of the current tailspin is not going to be simple for the Devils. They could have above-average performances Saturday and Monday and still be 3-5 in the league going to Georgia Tech.

And it’s important to remember that the biggest reasons for the current jam were the back-to-back losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse in Durham. One of the most important keys to Duke’s incredible success over the years has been the ability to take conference games in Cameron almost for granted.

After those two losses to State and Miami last season, Duke went to Louisville, ranked 6th nationally at the time, and turned the season around with an emotional win.

This Duke team faces the same road challenge or else the three-game skid soon will be five. If that happens, it really might be panic time for Blue Devil fans.

Endgame

The Miami Hurricanes come into this game with a 15-3 record and are currently 6th in the ACC. Miami have won their past 2 games with their most recent win being a 77-63 win over Wake Forest. Through 18 games this season the leading scorer for the Hurricanes has been Sheldon McClellan who is averaging 16.0 points per game and 3.4 rebounds. Ja’Quan Newton is second on the team averaging 11.8 points per game and 2.6 rebounds.

The Duke Blue Devils come into this game with a 15-5 record and are currently 8th in the ACC. The Blue Devils have lost 3 out of their past 4 games with their most recent win being a 88-78 win over North Carolina State. Through 20 games this season the leading scorer for the Blue Devils has been Grayson Allen who is averaging 20.5 points per game and Brandon Ingram is second on the team with 17.1 points per game.

Here is something that I have never done before. I decided to look at what Las Vegas thought about a game. In this game, the Duke Blue Devils are 3-1-1 against the spread in their last 5 games following a straight up win. The Blue Devils are 4-13-1 against the spread in their last 18 Monday games. Miami is 5-1-1 against the spread in their last 7 home games. The Hurricanes are 0-3-1 against the spread in their last 4 games overall.

Duke has been struggling lately and i think this could be another hard game for the Blue Devils. Mimai has been a good team this season and even better at home. Baaed on spreads, it is very possible that Miami can win this game and cover the spread at home.