Duke Basketball: Keys to the No. 1 Blue Devils Beating Miami

Trevor BrayContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2013

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 17:  Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during a win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 17, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 73-57.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Duke is neck and neck with Michigan and Kansas, fighting to keep the nation's No. 1 ranking. If the Blue Devils want to continue their reign, they’ll have to hold off the Miami Hurricanes tonight.

For the first time since January 2010, Miami is ranked in the Top 25 of the AP poll. The Hurricanes currently sit at the No. 25 spot, and they have a lot at stake tonight if they want to remain there.

Miami also sits atop the ACC Standings with a 4-0 record in conference play. Duke is 0-1 when on the road in their conference, and they will have to overcome a sold-out BankUnited Center to escape Miami without a loss.

Here are the keys for tonight's game from a Duke perspective:


Offensive Protection

Duke and Miami are nearly tied for lowest turnover percentage in the ACC this season (Duke's at 16.2%, Miami 16.6%). Additionally, Miami’s Shane Larkin leads the ACC in steals with 2.3 per game.

Duke will have to take care of the ball, considering the Canes forced Duke into 14 turnovers in a win over the Blue Devils in their last meeting. In Miami’s past five games, they have posted 7.0 steals and 5.4 blocks per game.

Starter and leading scorer Mason Plumlee leads Duke in turnovers per game with 2.9. Plumlee will need to have a big game and hold onto the ball to prevent Miami from scoring any easy baskets off turnovers.


3-Point Shooting

 In half of Miami’s games this season, the Canes have made more three-pointers than their opponent.

Luckily, Duke leads the ACC in three-point percentage. The Blue Devils have won 77 straight games when they make a minimum of 44 percent of their long-range shots. Players like Seth Curry (45.7 percent from three) and Quinn Cook (40.7 percent) will need to make those game-changing shots from behind the arc for Duke to win.


Big D

Duke needs to slow this Miami offense down. Miami is on a role at home, with the Canes having shot better than 45 percent from the field in six of their seven home games.

Quinn Cook leads the Blue Devils with 1.9 steals per game, while Tyler Thornton closely trails with 1.6. Combine that with Plumlee’s 143 defensive rebounds this season, and the Duke Devils have a shot at holding the Hurricanes to below the 68 points they average per game.