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.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.
And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.
The rest of the top 10?
They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: