No. 1 Duke lost tonight at No. 25 Miami.
That much isn’t a surprise. Miami got Reggie Johnson back tonight, and Duke is still playing without Ryan Kelly. The Hurricanes are the second best team in the ACC. They probably should be beating a banged-up Duke team at home.
But they shouldn’t be embarrassing the Blue Devils, which is precisely what happened on Wednesday night.
Duke, who is now 16-2 and 3-2 in the ACC, lost by 27 points, 90-63. But that final score doesn’t do justice the magnitude of the beatdown that Miami doled out. Miami was down 14-13 at one point in the first half. A tip-in by Mason Plumlee before the halftime buzzer made it 42-19 Hurricanes. Miami would push that lead to 49-19. That’s a 36-5 run for those scoring at home.
In simpler terms, Miami did this to Duke.
Even Dick Vitale called it an embarrassment, and every knows how much he loves Duke.
We went through this last season when North Carolina lost by 33 at Florida State as the No. 3 team in the country. Only six teams that have won the national title have lost by more than 20 points in the season they won the title. Only one of those six teams — UCLA in 1965 — lost by an many as 27 points. Only two teams ever ranked No. 1 in the country — St. John’s in 1951 and Houston in 1968 — have lost by more than 27 points.
But there’s a difference here: Duke is without Ryan Kelly, who is such an integral piece to that team. He’s a 6-foot-11 power forward that shoots over 50% from three and can guard multiple positions. Not only does he help create the spacing that the Blue Devils need for Mason Plumlee inside and Quinn Cook’s penetration, he takes away that spacing defensively with his ability to defend on the perimeter and block shots.
His value was evident when Duke lost to NC State.
This was more than just Ryan Kelly. The Blue Devils didn’t have a prayer of slowing down Shane Larkin or Durand Scott tonight. They made Kenny Kadji look like a lottery pick. Seth Curry looked like a 40 year old down at the YMCA, shooting 0-10 from the floor and playing like that leg injury is a bigger deal than he’s letting on. And he wasn’t the only back court member that looked lost. Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton combined to shoot 1-19 from the field.
When your three guards go 1-29 from the floor and allow the players they are guarding to combine for 43 points and nine assists on 17-28 shooting, you are going to lose.
But the biggest concern was that Duke simply didn’t have it in them to punch back when Miami started raining haymakers. There was no one on the team willing to step up and stop the run. They didn’t play when pride. Throw in every sports cliche you want here, because they’re all true.
That’s not always going to happen, and the Blue Devils are clearly not as bad as they looked on Tuesday, but the one thing that is clear is that they look a lot more like the team that lost to Lehigh right now than the team that won the Battle 4 Atlantis.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.