For programs like Duke, college basketball is about one thing: March.
When it was announced after the Clemson game that Ryan Kelly would miss time due to a foot injury, Duke fans immediately began to worry, and so-called pundits immediately began writing their title chances off.
While the loss hurts Duke at the present, the future of its season is far from doomed.
In the two games that the Blue Devils have taken the floor since Kelly's injury, they've split the pair. A road game at North Carolina State was not going to be easy, with or without Kelly, but the Blue Devils fought valiantly until the final buzzer, and reserves like Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson showed promise.
Duke rebounded from its first loss of the season with a home win against Georgia Tech. Despite the 16-point margin of victory, much of the game wasn't pretty to watch. Mason Plumlee struggled with his shot and the Yellow Jackets scrapped and clawed until they were finally overmatched by the more talented Duke squad.
While Plumlee and Seth Curry continued to do their thing against Georgia Tech, the re-emergence of Rasheed Sulaimon and his jump shot was perhaps the most welcome sight for fans of the program.
However, things aren't getting any easier for Duke.
With three of their next four games on the road, the Blue Devils will have to play good, fundamental basketball while avoiding careless turnovers. The recipe isn't any different, Duke is just without one of its key ingredients.
That's OK though. One thing is certain: Duke is a team that's going to be playing in late March. When Kelly went down, the term "indefinite" haunted fans and brought back memories of Kyrie Irving and his toe.
But this is different. Ryan Kelly is a senior and one who doesn't have the draft stock that Irving did.
Is that to say Coach K and the rest of the staff at Duke aren't going to be cautious? Absolutely not. However, you better believe that Kelly isn't going to want to miss out on a chance of winning his second national championship.
In fact, even at the risk of sounding insane, Kelly's injury might be a blessing in disguise. Much like Irving's injury allowed team chemistry to boom, Kelly's injury might do the same. His injury forces reserves to log minutes and in turn helps their games grow. When Irving returned during the 2011 NCAA tournament, many thought that it messed with the chemistry Duke had built during his absence.
That won't be the case with Kelly. He's much easier to plug back into the rotation than a point guard of Irving's caliber.
To the ever-growing anti-Duke population, it might sound overly optimistic. The loss of one of the most important players on a team being a good thing? Crazy!
While the situation certainly isn't ideal and the Blue Devils have plenty of room to improve, when the final buzzer sounds on April 8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Duke fans might be looking back on Kelly's injury and realizing it was much ado about nothing.
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