Miami v Duke

Ryan Kelly’s career day shows why he makes Duke a title contender


We heard just before the game today that Ryan Kelly would play for Duke against Miami, but we had no idea that meant he’d put up a career-high 36 points in a  79-76 upset of Miami, the ACC’s top team.

It’s easy to think that Kelly’s importance to Duke has been exaggerated as he sat, nursing a foot injury that has kept him sidelined since January 8. His performance at Cameron Indoor today proves he is every bit the key player his teammates have made him out to be. Kelly hit his first shot – a three-pointer – after just two and a half minutes of play, and he never looked back or looked anything less than fully healthy the rest of the way.

To recap: Kelly was 10-14 overall, 7-9 from deep, and 9-12 from the stripe. He snatched seven boards – six on the defensive end of the floor – and came up with a big steal in the final minute as Miami was setting up for a potential go-ahead shot. Kelly defended everyone from Shane Larkin to Kenny Kadji on a night when most thought he’d make a token appearance as part of a cautious recovery effort.

The stat line tells the tale of why Duke became beatable while Kelly was out, and again looks like a title contender with him on the court. When Miami doubled Mason Plumlee early in the game, Kelly drained the long ball. When the ‘Canes started edging out to harass Kelly’s perimeter shots, Plumlee was able to dunk, board and hit the putbacks he can get easily on single coverage. Defensively, Kelly employed his long arms and quickness to bother shots all over the floor, and he snagged a crucial steal in the final minute that ended an attempt by Miami to tie the game or take the lead.

It’s not a stretch to say that Ryan Kelly is the crucial piece in Duke’s title hopes right now. He’s not the star – tonight’s scoring explosion notwithstanding – but he’s the guy who gives the stars an extra inch or two to operate, and denies that same real estate to opponents. That can be the difference between ending play in March and ending play in April.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.