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Game Preview: Duke vs. Miami

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Shane Larkin is, in Dick Vitale's eyes, the frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY

Duke vs Miami
6:10 p.m.
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham
TV/Radio: ESPN/WKIX-102.9 FM
And? A Ryan Kelly return is quite possible.

Projected starting lineups:

No. 3 Duke (24-4, 11-4 in the ACC)
G Quinn Cook, So., 12.4 ppg, 5.4 apg
G Seth Curry, Sr., 17.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg
G Rasheed Sulaimon, Fr., 12.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg
F Josh Hairston, Jr., 2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
F Mason Plumlee, Sr., 17.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg

No. 5 Miami (23-4, 14-1)
G Shane Larkin, So., 13.4 ppg, 4.3 apg
G Durand Scott, Sr., 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg
G Trey McKinney Jones, r-Sr., 9.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
F/C Kenny Kadji, Jr, r-Sr., 13.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg
F/C Julian Gamble, r-Sr., 6.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Player to watch:

Ryan Kelly, Duke

Kelly has missed Duke’s past 13 games, out with a right foot injury he sustained Jan. 8 against Clemson. He has not been ruled out for Saturday’s game, and his return is a definite possibility. Before he was injured, Kelly was Duke’s most effective offensive weapon, averaging 17.3 points per game in his last three games. He was leading the Blue Devils in 3-point shooting percentage (.521) and was 15-of-20 (75 percent) from behind the arc in his last six games.

If Kelly returns, he won’t play the 28.3 minutes he was averaging per game before he was injured. But just his presence on the floor could open up more space for all of Duke’s shooters.


• • •Miami has won the last two games against Duke—the 90-67 win in Coral Gables and the 78-74 win last Super Bowl Sunday in Cameron. Duke hasn't lost three in a row to an opponent since dropping three straight to UNC in 2008-2009. The last non-UNC team to beat the Blue Devils three consecutive times was Maryland from 2004-2005. Two of those games were decided in overtime.

• • • ESPN analyst Dick Vitale gave a few thoughts that didn't make the preview story in a phone interview about Duke and Miami:

“Right now, Shane Larkin has to be the leading candidate for MVP. If you would have asked me three weeks ago, I would have said Plumlee in a landslide. But right now, how Larkin has come on, I’ve always been a believer of to the victor goes the spoils. You win the championship, there’s a reason, and somebody has to be the key catalyst. Larkin has been an elite guard and absolutely sensational.”

“I expect a supreme effort out of the kids from Duke. I will say this: If Miami leaves there at 8 o’clock with a W on Saturday, they have sent a message loud and clear to the nation that they are a genuine, elite heavyweight contender for the national title. They’re going to get Duke’s best hit, and if they’re able to survive that on Saturday night, they are really special.”

• • •Miami coach Jim Larranaga was asked earlier this week about the possibility of a Ryan Kelly return.

“Certainly having a player of his caliber helps,” he said. “It gives you another weapon. It allows you to rest certain guys. I think he and Plumlee are a great 1-2 punch. Kelly can shoot the 3 and Plumlee is great in around the basket and Ryan Kelly can post up. He’s a great back-to-the-basket player. He’s a very good free-throw shooter. Losing him is certainly a big lose. Getting him back would be a real shot in the arm to them.”

• • •In the aftermath of Duke’s loss at Miami, Rasheed Sulaimon told reporters, “"It wasn't demoralizing; they played better.” He also added "I believe we have them on the schedule again."

When talking to media in Coral Gables earlier this week, Kenny Kadji remembered Sulaimon’s comments.

“I saw what Coach K said after the game and he didn’t seem very happy. I think Sulaiman said he was looking forward to the next game,” Kadji said. “They’re going to be ready. Any time you beat a team by 27 points, they way we did, they’re always going to be ready for the next game.”

Thanks to the wonderful Michael Casagrande for the Miami quotes. Follow him on Twitter at @ByCasagrande for all things Miami Hurricanes.

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About the blogger

Laura Keeley is the Duke beat writer for the News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter @laurakeeley