Winning at North Carolina is always a big deal for Duke. However, the latest victory has even more significance as it likely earned the team a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Blue Devils have not looked great over the past month. They suffered losses at Maryland and at Virginia, two bubble teams that followed up their big upset with losses at Boston College.
For many teams in other years, these defeats alone would be enough to drop the squad off the top line. Duke didn't even earn a share of the ACC regular-season title after finishing a game behind Miami.
One would think that it would take an ACC tournament championship to earn a No. 1 seed. Still, that might not be necessary.
After defeating North Carolina, Duke finishes the regular season as the No. 1 team in the RPI rankings. The squad had the toughest schedule in the country and came out with a 27-4 record.
While this is already impressive, the team separates itself with its play against the top teams in the country. Any good team can rack up wins against the weaker schools around the nation, but Duke has a 6-1 record against Top 25 teams in the RPI and a 10-2 record against the Top 50.
Only Indiana has more wins against the Top 25 after compiling a 7-2 record in such games.
The Blue Devils beat top squads like Louisville, Miami, Ohio State and North Carolina twice. Few teams have a resume like that.
Even the losses are not too bad when you compare it to other top teams. Michigan has a loss to Penn State (RPI of 180), Miami dropped games to Georgia Tech (127) and Wake Forest (168), while Kansas fell to TCU (226).
Finally, Duke has an opportunity to be viewed by the selection committee as it is now. That means that it must be evaluated with Ryan Kelly on the roster.
Although Kelly might not be the team's most talented player, he might be the most important. He is a ridiculous mismatch as a 6'11" forward that shoots an incredible 53.1 percent from behind the arc. He helps the team in scoring, defense, outside shooting and simply leadership as a senior who has been with the program for four years.
Each of the team's four losses occurred while Kelly was out with a injured foot. Since then, he scored 36 points in a win over Miami and was a big defensive factor in the victory at Chapel Hill.
Obviously, you cannot ignore the poor performances while the senior was out, but it is hard to argue that this is not a much better team than it was a few weeks ago.
A conference tournament title could make this the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. However, even if the Blue Devils fall early in the ACC tournament, they have already shown that they are an elite team. They have beaten the best and are peaking at the right time.
This should be enough to remain a No. 1 seed regardless of what happens next weekend.
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