Duke has played 15 games with Ryan Kelly and 11 without him. Following an 88-56 win at Virginia Tech on Thursday, the sixth-ranked Blue Devils are now 8-3 with Kelly in street clothes.
Even though Kelly has been sidelined with a right foot injury since Jan. 9, and is still seen in a walking boot, Mike Krzyzewski is confident he’ll have his senior forward back soon.
“We’re more optimistic,” Krzyzewski said after Thursday’s win. “Again, no timetable, but it’s moving. It’s moving in the right direction. Now we believe we’re going to get him back.”
Coach K went on to tell reporters that the 6-foot-11 Kelly has already begun physical activities, but has yet to get involved in any basketball-related workouts besides shooting free throws. Duke has five regular season games remaining to plug Kelly back into the lineup. Before the injury suffered during the Jan. 8 win over Clemson, Kelly was averaging 13.4 points and was the second-leading rebounder with 5.4 per game.
In a lineup with Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, two candidates to be ACC Player of the Year, Kelly was arguably the most valuable player to Duke prior to his injury. He is a versatile defender and offensively adds another shooter on the perimeter, which in return opens up more for Plumlee down low.
Kelly had sustained an injury to the same foot in the latter part of last season, causing him to miss the ACC and NCAA tournaments. The Blue Devils lost two of the last three games that year without Kelly on the floor.
Duke is set to host Boston College on Sunday afternoon.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.