The Duke Blue Devils may have lost senior forward Ryan Kelly for 2-4 weeks with a right foot injury and been upset at NC State, but the Blue Devils should be one of the best teams heading into March.
Duke has possibly one of the best backcourts in the country consisting of senior guard Seth Curry, sophomore guard Quinn Cook and freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon. The frontcourt is solid as well with senior forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.
Look for Duke to be the favorite to win the ACC Conference and be one of top seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Ryan Kelly is what holds this Duke team together. When he was injured at the end of last season with a foot injury during the ACC tournament and second round of the NCAA tournament, things fell apart for the Blue Devils.
We saw again how valuable Kelly is to his team when the Blue Devils were upset on the road at NC State 84-76 on January 12th. Kelly is one of the team's best shooters, averaging 13.4 points per game, and is also a threat on the boards with 5.4 rebounds per game.
Kelly is what makes this team jell together, and he needs to be healthy as soon as possible with three of Duke's next four games on the road.
Duke absolutely needs Kelly to compete for a national championship.
With brother Miles being drafted into the NBA, it was up to younger brother Mason this season to become more of a leader and be able to be a better inside scorer this season.
Mason Plumlee has not disappointed this season as he leads this Duke team in points per game with 17.4 and currently ranks eighth in the country with 195 defensive rebounds on the season.
Plumlee, as reported by ESPN, is to be on the Wooden Award midseason watch list.
Plumlee is going to continue to be a threat inside as the Blue Devils get deeper into ACC Conference play. His physical play will be one of the keys that gets Duke deep into March.
Seth Curry, like Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, is the other player on this Duke team that will be needed when March comes around.
Seth Curry is a floor leader and can flat-out shoot the ball. Curry is averaging 16.9 points per game and has a three-point field-goal percentage of .457.
He shows the will to win, and during the NC State game, which they lost this season 84-76, you saw how tough he is as a basketball player. Curry was literally keeping his team in the game until he went down with an injury.
Curry, like Plumlee, is also reported by ESPN to be on the Wooden Award midseason watch list. With a healthy Curry, it is going to be difficult to stop him and the Blue Devils when the madness begins in March.
The Duke backcourt continues to be one of the most talented in the country. With the guard play from Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton, it has made Duke significantly better than last season.
What I have noticed is that there is a lot more chemistry between these players. Austin Rivers, who now plays in the NBA for New Orleans Hornets, was as talented as could be, but the offense was simply not as consistent or fluent as it should have been at times.
Curry is the clear floor leader of this Duke squad, but these other three players are the real deal.
Quinn Cook has taken his game to a new level this season and is averaging 11.5 points per game and more importantly is averaging 6.1 assists per game. Rasheed Sulaimon is just a freshman, but he is currently averaging 11.0 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Lastly, Tyler Thornton statistically does not look as good as the other three players, but when he comes off the bench, he is of great help to this Duke basketball team. Thornton has averaged 1.6 steals per game.
The Duke Blue Devils should be able to win the ACC regular-season title, as well as the ACC tournament title. The conference seems to be down this year with only NC State and potentially Miami (FL) being a true contender to Duke.
Duke will play at a No. 25 Miami (FL) team Wednesday night that is currently 4-0 in conference play. Even if Miami (FL) were to upset Duke, it is hard to imagine Miami (FL) winning the ACC regular-season title.
NC State has looked shaky after upsetting the Blue Devils at home on January 12th. NC State lost at Maryland Wednesday, 51-50, and then pulled out a close one at Clemson on Sunday, 66-62.
North Carolina is not even close to the talent level it has been at the last couple of years. As ACC Conference games continue to be played, ACC teams will begin to beat up on each other, leaving Duke and potentially NC State and Miami (FL) at the top of the standings.
Duke is the clear favorite to win the ACC with all of the talent it has.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski is currently the winningest coach in Men's Division I college basketball history. This is most likely Krzyzewski's best team since the Blue Devils won the national title in 2010.
In the past decade, Krzyzewski has led his team to one national title, two Final Fours and has reached the Sweet 16 seven times. Krzyzewski's team should be in good shape when it enters the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed, or at worst a No. 2 seed.
Watch for Duke to run the table in the ACC and go deep into the NCAA tournament.