The Duke Blue Devils are one of the hottest teams in the country, but do they have what it takes to roll into March Madness as one of the four No. 1 seeds?
Right now, the answer appears to be yes. The Blue Devils avenged their first loss of the season with a huge 98-85 win over the N.C. State Wolfpack. Winners of four straight, they appear to be peaking at just the right time.
With the top RPI and BPI rating in college basketball and a No. 4 ranking, Duke controls its own destiny when it comes to tournament seeding. However, there's still plenty of time before the selection committee sets the bracket in March.
Here's what the Blue Devils must do to maintain their current pace and roll into the tournament as the team to beat.
Duke made a big statement in avenging their first loss against N.C. State. Now it will need to focus its attention on avenging its second loss—an embarrassing 90-63 drubbing at the hands of the Miami Hurricanes.
The 'Canes represent the strongest opponent remaining on Duke's schedule. They are the only Top-25 team left on the schedule, and losing to Miami a second time could be enough to put doubts in the mind of the selection committee.
Miami is one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Since losing to Indiana State on Christmas day the Hurricanes have ripped off 10 wins in a row, including the win over Duke and a one-point victory over N.C. State.
The 'Canes had home-court advantage and the element of surprise going for them last time. The Devils can make a huge statement by evening the series on March 2.
Avoid the Upset Bug
If we've learned one thing in college basketball this season, it's that anyone can get beaten.
This season has seen so many No. 1 teams go down that it's almost a curse to be sitting atop the AP poll. If the Blue Devils want to show they deserve a top seed, they need to avoid any big upset losses.
Outside of Miami, Duke has no ranked opponents left on the schedule and will be favored against every team they play from here on out. Rival North Carolina will always give the Dukies a strong test, but the Devils can't afford to lose focus like they have in losses to Miami and N.C. State.
Win the ACC Tournament
This has been a somewhat down season for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC is usually college basketball's premier conference, but only Miami and Duke have really stood out this season as bona fide contenders for March.
That being said, the pressure is on for Duke to win the conference tournament and show they are prepared for a deep run.
Last season the Devils were upset in the ACC tournament by Florida State. The Blue Devils went on to lose as a No. 2 seed to Lehigh in the first round. If the Devils struggle in the conference tournament this time around, the selection committee could hold it against them.
As long as Mason Plumlee continues to fill up the stat sheet and the team keeps playing like it has lately, they'll have a nice road to the finals when the brackets come out in March.
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