Following their 79-76 victory against the Miami Hurricanes on March 2, the Duke Blue Devils further validated their March Madness credentials with a big win against rival North Carolina on Saturday, dominating the Tar Heels 69-53 at Chapel Hill.
Led by Seth Curry (20 points) and Mason Plumlee (23 points, 13 rebounds), No. 3 Duke hammered UNC, proving Mike Krzyzewski's group will be one of the top teams entering the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Perhaps even more impressive, Duke shot 55.1 percent from the floor as a team in a hostile environment. That hot shooting in difficult venues could be huge for the Blue Devils in the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Ryan Kelly, who had a quiet eight points on the night, was coming off an 18-point performance against Virgina Tech and 36 against Miami. All of his 36 were needed in the latter.
Despite his unimpressive stat line—eight points, three rebounds, three assists, one block in 28 minutes—this tweet from ESPN makes an interesting observation:
ESPN College BBall @ESPNCBB
Duke shoots lights out in Chapel Hill. Now 18-0 when Kelly is in the line up. Are they the best team in the country right now?3/10/2013, 3:52:32 AM
Whether they are the top team in the country is up for debate, but they made a very strong case Saturday night.
It is just about a forgone conclusion that Duke will end up with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. ESPN's Eamonn Brennan took it a step further:
Eamonn Brennan @eamonnbrennan
Bracket update: Duke now No. 1 overall http://t.co/WlS3DuuEtI3/10/2013, 4:03:39 AM
The Miami Hurricanes won the regular-season ACC crown after defeating Clemson 62-49, and they finished with a historic 24-6 record (15-3 in the ACC). The 24 wins is a school record for the Canes.
However, the Blue Devils have the players and head coaching experience to make a deep run in March.
Quinn Cook and Seth Curry are three-point marksmen, Ryan Kelly is a do-everything player, Mason Plumlee handles the paint on both sides of the floor, and Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson are capable complementary players.
Is Duke the favorite to win it all?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre