It appears that ‘if’ is no longer the correct term to use when discussing the return of Ryan Kelly to the Duke lineup this season.
At this point, it’s a matter of when.
At least that’s what Mike Krzyzewski told USA Today’s Eric Prisbell on Tuesday.
“It would not be this week,” Coach K told Prisbell. “Depending upon on what he is able to do this week will determine if he can play next week or for the ACC tournament. We definitely believe he is going to play before the NCAA tournament.”
The question now is just how good Kelly will be when he gets back on the court. Sitting out for two months while being forced to use crutches and a walking boot is not exactly an ideal way for an athlete to prepare for the NCAA tournament. When Kelly does return, his timing is going to be off. He’s not going to be in game shape. He’s not going to have the kind of strength in his legs that’s he’s used to. How well is he going to be able to shoot the ball? How well is he going to be able to handle the ball?
More importantly, how long is it going to take for him to get back into mid-season form?
With Kelly in the lineup, Duke was arguably the best team in the country. Kelly was such an important piece given his ability to defend multiple positions and stretch the floor for Mason Plumlee in the paint.
If he can get back to that level, the Blue Devils will be a favorite to win the national title.
They’re still a contender if Kelly isn’t the same player, but they won’t be the same team that ran through everyone in their path back in November and December.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.
The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:
Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.
UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.
Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.
All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.
The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.