Duke Basketball: Blue Devils Won't Be Fazed by Upcoming Schedule

Marques EversollAnalyst IJanuary 21, 2013

Despite losing to North Carolina State, Duke is as good as any team in the country.
Despite losing to North Carolina State, Duke is as good as any team in the country.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils bounced back from a disappointing loss Jan. 17 to North Carolina State by handily defeating Georgia Tech.

Now, the Blue Devils' focus shifts to a tough road game against the Miami Hurricanes. Six of Duke's next nine games will be played away from Cameron Indoor Stadium.

But if Duke has proven anything this year, it's that it won't be fazed by a tough schedule.

In November, the Blue Devils took down No. 3 Kentucky, No. 2 Louisville and No. 4 Ohio State. Three Top-Five teams in a 15-day span wasn't enough to knock Coach K's squad off course and neither will the upcoming road test.

Wednesday night's game against Miami figures to test the Blue Devils. The Hurricanes are the only ACC team that has yet to lose in conference play.

Miami senior guard Durand Scott leads the Hurricanes in scoring, averaging 13.7 points per game, but the offensive attack as a whole is balanced.

Senior big man Kenny Kadji anchors the Miami offense down low, and he's taken on a larger role since center Reggie Johnson went down with a broken thumb. Johnson's absence figures to hinder the Hurricanes against Mason Plumlee and the Blue Devils, who will once again be without versatile forward Ryan Kelly.

Saturday, Duke could be tested by a tough Maryland team. The Terrapins have gotten off to a slow start in conference play at 2-3, but they're 14-4 on the season and their lineup is flooded with capable scoring threats. Duke and Maryland are scheduled to play twice in a matter of just three weeks.

Playing away from home will test the Dukies, but there's currently just one ranked team on the upcoming schedule--N.C. State.

The Wolfpack beat the Blue Devils in Raleigh Jan. 12. Duke will certainly have redemption on the mind Feb. 7 in Durham.

Duke is now 1-1 without Kelly in the lineup, as the rest of the team prepares to help shoulder more of the scoring load. A pair of seniors, guard Seth Curry and forward Mason Plumlee, will continue to lead the team in scoring.

Plumlee is a candidate to win the Naismith Award as the top player in college basketball. He's averaging 17.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 34 minutes per night.

The ACC is traditionally a very tough conference to compete in, but no conference foe has a player like Plumlee. Duke simply has the best player—and team—in the conference right now.

Curry is enjoying his best statistical season since he was a freshman at Liberty University. He's shooting 45.7 percent from three-point range and averaging 16.7 points per game.

When the Duke offense has stalled, the Devils have been able to rely on their senior duo of Curry and Plumlee to pull through and get the team back on track. No Kelly, no problem for Duke basketball.

With No. 1 Louisville's recent loss, Duke could be the top-ranked team in the country once again. Expect the Blue Devils to maintain their spot among college basketball's elite for the entire 2012-13 season.