PREVIEW: Duke (15-5) v. Miami (15-3)

After rallying to beat NC State and snapping their three game losing streak, Duke must go on the road to face a Miami program that has won three of the last five against the Blue Devils.

MIAMI HURRICANES

15-3 Overall, 4-2 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS

G- 05 Davon Reed (10.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
G- 10 Sheldon McClellan (16.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
G- 13 Angel Rodriguez (11.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
F- 21 Kamari Murphy (5.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
C- 23 Tonye Jekiri (8.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

Fifth year seniors are the trend in Coral Gables this year and it starts with scoring guard Sheldon McClellan, the team’s leading scorer.  A season ago he started 38 games and has continued his strong run of play this year, averaging 16 points per night while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the charity stripe.  He also leads the team in minutes played.  That field goal percentage is eighth best in the country among guards, and best in the league.  McClellan has scored 20+ points in four outings and 14+ points in 14 games.

Joining McClellan in the backcourt is Angel Rodriguez, the speedy point guard who torched Duke for 24 points in Cameron last year as Miami blew Duke out on their home floor.  So far this season Rodriguez has been just as fast, and a bit more steady, averaging 11.4 points in 29 minutes per game.  

THE STORYLINES

COMMON OPPONENTS

Not that the transitive property works in college basketball all that well, and especially not this year.  However, the Hurricanes and Blue Devils have played five common opponents (Utah, Syracuse, Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest).  Both team lost at Clemson with Duke’s game going down to the final shot and Miami losing by 11.  Both teams beat up on Wake Forest.  Duke lost to Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium, while Miami easily beat the Orange at home by 13.  Each team easily beat Boston College at Conte Forum, and then there’s the Utah game.  Duke lost a close game on a neutral court to the Utes, but Miami ran Utah out of the gym at home, winning by 24.

BLOWOUTS ARE COMMON

On the average, Duke doesn’t lose many games per year.  And when they do, those games are usually competitive for most of the contest.  Since 2012 Duke has lost just five games by 16 points or more.  Two of them are to Miami.  

Taking it a step further, since Jim Larranaga took over the Hurricane program in 2012, Duke has posted just a 2-3 record against Miami and the Blue Devils have been out-scored in those five games by a total of 23 points.  When Miami is beating Duke, they are scoring at will - averaging 86 points per contest.  When they are losing to Duke?  It’s a 61.0 point per game output.  

THE PERIMETER WILL TELL THE TALE

Much of Duke’s game mirrors what the Hurricanes try to do with opponents.  The Blue Devils are going to attempt a lot of three pointers while also looking to drive and attack the basket.  A season ago when Miami out-scored Duke by 25 points in the second half, the game was decided because the Hurricanes were raining 3-pointers, but also driving to the rim consistently and Duke couldn’t compensate (or defend).  This year Duke will look to drive at Miami, but the need to knock down shots from distance will be there.  And that’s where things could get troublesome.  Miami doesn’t allow many looks from the outside.  In 10 of the last 11 games, Miami has held each of its opponents to less than 33.3 percent shooting per game from long range - holding them to a combined 24.0 percent mark in those 10 games - with Clemson’s 43.8 percent the exception.  

Notebook:

- Against NC State, Duke used the starting lineup of Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, Brandon Ingram and Marshall Plumlee for the fourth time this season and owns a 2-2 record with those five players on the floor to start the game.

- The Blue Devils brought down 10 offensive rebounds against the Wolfpack, including six in the first half. Duke’s six first half offensive boards tied for the second-most in a conference game this season. The Blue Devils have now collected double-digit offensive rebounds in three straight games, the first time Duke has accomplished such a feat since a three-game stretch against Georgia Southern, Utah and Elon.

- Marshall Plumlee collected six offensive rebounds, his third straight game with five-or-more rebounds on the offensive end of the floor. 

- The Blue Devils scored 52 second-half points on Saturday, the third-most second-half points scored by the Blue Devils this season. Duke shot 7-of-11 (.636) from beyond the arc in the second half, the team’s second-best second-half shooting performance from beyond the arc this year. 

- Freshman Brandon Ingram posted his 13th straight double-digit scoring game after netting 25 against NC State. Ingram became the ninth freshman in program history to record eight-or-more games with 20-or-more points. Ingram extended his streak of games with two-or-more made three pointers to 13 after shooting 4-of-6 (.667) from beyond the arc.

They Said It:

“I don’t know what it is about the first half, I just can’t score in the first half. I don’t know if I need to just not play the whole first half and come in the second half, I guess. [laughter] I don’t know. It’s been tough for me in the first half, the last couple of games.  I guess I’m a second-half person, so just I want to be aggressive.” - Sheldon McClellan on his first half struggles

The Prediction

Duke has a short turnaround from Saturday afternoon’s game, and will travel to Miami needing to sustain the positive momentum gained in the final 20 minutes against NC State.  As noted above, the Hurricanes have been a perpetual thorn in the side of the Duke program under Jim Larranaga.  And, on Monday, it’s likely that Miami will be favored to win.  They are almost a mirror image of this Duke team, but it’s 18 and 19 year olds versus a roster filled with upperclassmen.  That could make a big difference.  Both teams rely on the strength of their guards.  For Duke to upset Miami in Coral Gables, both Ingram and Allen will need to be terrific.  Marshall Plumlee will need to stay out of foul trouble.  And either Matt Jones or Luke Kennard will have to play better than they did against NC State.  As Coach K has said, this team’s margin for error is razor thin.   A result either way wouldn’t be a major surprise, but given the history and the trends of this season, Duke’s got an up-hill climb ahead of them.  So, our pick is…

Duke - 73
Miami - 84


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