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If Duke wants to be considered an elite team again, this is the type of game it has to win. The Blue Devils haven't won a true road game yet (losses at ND and CLEM). As for Miami (FL), it's a big week for them having home games against Duke and Syracuse. If the Hurricanes can't win either, their chances of reaching the Big Dance will be slim.
When the Blue Devils lose, it's their role players that tend to struggle. In their past two wins, players like Rasheed Sulaimon (21pts vs. UV) and Amile Jefferson (10pts, 15 rebs vs. UV) have stepped up and been factors. That will have to be the case in this game against the 'Canes, who aren't as bad as one would think.
While they have some ugly losses, Miami hasn't been all that bad in conference play, with their losses against top teams. They battled Syracuse in a five-point loss, but also beat North Carolina on the road and are now coming off a 14-point win at Georgia Tech, a game that was a PK.
In case your memory is short, the Hurricanes dominated this matchup last year 90-63 against a No. 1 Duke squad. The win eventually propelled Miami to a No. 2 seed. Now that both teams are a step down from a year ago, the stakes are a bit lower.
Miami will look to use Donnavan Kirk as much as possible as Duke lacks a consistent big man. Kirk only averages 9.9 points on the season, but has 35 over the last two games and will be looking to continue that run. He had 21 of Miami's 53 points in the loss to Florida State. Kirk is joined by leading scorer Rion Brown, who has taken up a bigger role this year. All of Brown's numbers are up from a year ago (14.1 PTS, 6.4 REB, 2.5 AST) as he's playing 34.5 minutes per game. To win this game, both Kirk and Brown will have to play well.
At the other end, Jabari Parker is the name everyone knows. We know Parker is good, but he has taken a step back over the past month. After starting the season with 10 20-point games in 12 opportunities, Parker has only done that once in the last six games. He's even been held to single digits in two games. His minutes have fallen as well, often getting less than 30 minutes of court action. It's a wonder what Mike Krzyzewski will continue to do with him.
Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook are the other two to watch out for. Cook runs the show for the offense getting close to 35 minutes each night. While his three-point shooting is down from last year, he's improved his AST/TO ratio to 5.7/1.9. Hood, a Mississippi State transfer, has been a huge addition averaging close to 18 points per game. With defenses often focused on Parker, it's Hood that benefits.
Obviously, Duke has the skill advantage, but can you trust them on the road? Miami (FL) is in the same boat as Notre Dame and Clemson, two teams that beat Duke at home. A win for the Hurricanes here would do wonders for their confidence, but is it the type of game they can win? It's not like they have been a dominant home team. No matter, this one will likely be closer than expected as most of Duke's road games are.
Our Model's prediction: Duke 72 Miami Fla 58
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