ACC Tournament 2013: Why Duke Is Team to Beat in Greensboro

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 13, 2013

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 29: Quinn Cook #2, Tyler Thornton #3, Ryan Kelly #34, and Seth Curry #30 of the Duke Blue Devils look on as teammate Mason Plumlee #5 (not pictured) shoots a free throw against the Santa Clara Broncos at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 29, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke defeated Santa Clara 90-77. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

The ACC tournament takes place in Greensboro, N.C. and begins on Thursday.

The entire college basketball season has been unpredictable, and in some ways the ACC has been no different.

After a long season of peaks, valleys, injuries and recoveries, Duke is destined to come out on top when the smoke clears.

Here is why they are the team to beat.


Return of Ryan Kelly

Kelly may not get any national player of the year votes, but he is perhaps the most valuable player in college basketball this year. Duke was a good team during his 13-game absence with a foot injury, but they are 17-0 with him on the floor.

That includes three statement-making victories to close out the regular-season schedule.

The Dukies tipped Miami 79-76 on March 2, blew out Virginia Tech 85-57 on March 5 and easily handled North Carolina 69-53 on March 9.

Kelly's production decreased from 36 points against Miami to 18 against Virginia Tech and only eight points against Carolina on Saturday. Is Kelly coming down to Earth?

No, he does what his team needs, and his impact isn't just about statistics. He's truly the player that most effects whether Duke wins or loses.

His impact goes beyond the offense, he's clearly a difference-maker on defense as well. Duke is allowing just 60.5 points per game when he plays, but they gave up 76.5 points per game during his absence.

Kelly is simply a winning basketball player.


Balanced Scoring

The Blue Devils have five players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Mason Plumlee at 17.2 per game. Seth Curry is just behind him putting in 17.1 points per game.

Of the team's top five scorers (Plumlee, Curry, Kelly, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon) all of them have had multiple games with 20 points or more.

That shows that on any given day, the team has a multitude of options on the perimeter and in the paint that can carry the offensive load. No team in the ACC can boast this type of balance.

N.C. State also has five players averaging double figures, but their top scorer, C.J. Leslie, averages more than two points less than Plumlee and Curry.



Some may doubt whether Mike Krzyzewski's approach and the school's academic standards would make it difficult for Duke to stay dominant in this era of college basketball.

But no fall-off hasn't taken place.

Coach K still leads, motivates and his players still play disciplined basketball. When he has the inside/outside presence he has with this group, coupled with senior leadership from players like Kelly, Curry and Plumlee, his teams are hard to beat.


Prediction for MVP

Kelly is the most valuable player, but statistics genuinely weigh heaviest in these situations. Because of that, I'm going with Plumlee. He's averaging a double-double, and Kelly's presence should allow him more room to operate close to the basket.

Heading into the tournament, it's time for Plumlee to shine, as he could improve his draft stock with a great postseason.

I see him building momentum here and taking home the Most Valuable Player award.


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