Duke Basketball: Breaking Down Blue Devils' Bid for No. 1 Seed

Shawn BrubakerContributor IIFebruary 24, 2013

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 07:  Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates after a play during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 7, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Duke has had some unexpected struggles this season, but the Blue Devils are still in the driver's seat for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have several quality wins on their resume, and they've largely dominated their competition, especially at home.

They need to seal the deal in the ACC Tournament. If they do that, they should wrap up a No. 1 seed.

One thing working in Duke's favor is the team's No. 1 ranking in RPI, which takes into account the team's strength of schedule and its performance.

Duke has definitely had some quality wins, including early-season wins over Kentucky, Virginia Comonwealth, Ohio State and Louisville. Kentucky is having a down year but is still dangerous, while Ohio State, VCU and Louisville remain top-25 teams.

Those big wins were crucial, but holding Duke back is the team's second-place ranking in the conference. Thanks to upset losses to Miami, Maryland and North Carolina State, the Blue Devils are not in the top spot in the conference heading into the ACC tournament.

Considering that Miami has just one conference loss, Duke is unlikely to earn the top seed in the conference tournament. The Blue Devils are still in solid shape, though, as they have a chance to get a confidence-building win against Miami early in March.

A win would set up the Blue Devils nicely heading into the tournament as the presumed No. 2 seed. From there, Duke needs to take care of business. A conference tournament championship in the ACC is often an avenue to a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance, and it would certainly cement one for Duke.

What it all comes down to is how the Blue Devils perform against Miami. They lost to the Hurricanes by 27 earlier in the season, and odds are that they'll get two more chances.

The March 2nd matchup will be huge for the Blue Devils. They are undefeated at home this season, and hosting and beating Miami would prove that the Blue Devils really can beat any team in the conference.

From there, Duke will likely have to go through Miami to take the ACC title. It will be a difficult task, but they  have to win the conference tournament to earn a No. 1 seed. There are just too many good teams with too much parity for a non-conference champion to take a top seed.

Despite their losses, Duke still has the most talent in the ACC. If this team fires on all cylinders, expect the Blue Devils to be at the top of plenty of brackets.