Conference realignment over the last few years has changed the landscape of college athletics. Though driven by football, I believe that the ACC as a basketball conference will have the most dramatic facelift of them all.
Although Maryland will be leaving the conference for the Big Ten in 2014 – the 2013-14 season will boast:
1. Boston college
4. Florida State
5. Georgia Tech
9. NC State
10. North Carolina
11. Notre Dame
15. Virginia Tech
Currently eight of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament and I think Duke, Louisville, Syracuse and Miami all have a legitimate shot at the Final Four and one of them winning the National Championship, and that's not including a Roy Williams North Carolina team that has to be in the conversation if they are in the draw.
I have to admit that I was not a proponent of adding the additional teams to the conference, but think about it – in just a few months, as a basketball league We'll be talking about Mob Bosses AKA “Hall of Famers”; Krzyzewski, Boeheim,Williams and Rick Patino battling it out for ACC supremacy. The 13-14 pre-season basketball meetings are going to be more like a crime syndicate quorum with coaches Dixon, Larranaga, Gottfried and Brey struggling to become made men; the other coaches as low level runners – retired Gary Williams sitting in as and impartial arbiter.
Considering the pedigree of the programs entering the league next season the 2014 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is going to have a hard time taking eight teams from the conference even though there will definitely be, minimum eight teams deserving of making the Big Dance.
Winning at Cameron Indoor is always a near-impossible task considering the Blue Devils had won 92 of their previous 97 home games prior to Saturday night. The Blue Devils were especially motivated for the Hurricanes this time around, as the 27-point shellacking they experienced at the Bank United Center earlier in the year was fresh on their minds. Despite the hostility they knew they were about to face in Durham, the Canes went into the game confident in their own ability as one of Duke’s previous five home losses had come at the hands of this very same Canes team last season. Sports analysts everywhere hyped this game as easily the biggest in the ACC and arguably the biggest in all of college basketball thus far. This game featured another prominent storyline prior to tipoff: the return of Ryan Kelly. Most people predicted that Kelly would play ten to fifteen minutes at the most and would have a minimal impact on the outcome.
As it turned out, Kelly torched Miami for 36 points as he led the Blue Devils to a 79-76 win over the Miami Hurricanes. The Canes had no answer for Kelly’s outside shooting as he alone hit seven of the Blue Devils’ eleven three pointers compared to six threes combined for Miami. Despite Kelly’s historic night, the Canes were able to stay in the game by exploiting Duke’s poor penetration defense. Shane Larkin led the way for the Canes with twenty-five points and four assists followed by Kenny Kadji’s seventeen points and ten rebounds. The difference in the game last year for the Canes was Reggie Johnson’s impact in the paint. He dominated Duke inside for twenty-seven points. This time around, Mason Plumlee and the rest of the Blue Devils held Johnson scoreless, as he missed all five of his shot attempts and failed to force Duke to double-team him down low. The two teams remained within striking distance of each other for most of the night before Duke finally got the first double-digit lead for either team after Quinn Cook’s three pointer with 1:56 left. The Canes rallied back, and had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer before Rion Brown’s three-pointer rattled out.
The Canes have plenty of positives to take away from the game despite the loss. The Canes being able to stay in the game shows that the win earlier in the year was no fluke. The Canes are able to match up well with the Blue Devils and have a legitimate chance to beat them in the ACC tournament if the two teams meet again. Once again, Miami shut down Seth Curry by holding him to seven points on two of eight shooting. In fact, if it were not for Ryan Kelly, the Canes would have handily beat Duke again. Of course, the Blue Devils will have Kelly at their disposal the rest of the season but it is highly unlikely that he will score 36 points again on ten of fourteen shooting from the field. Jim Larranaga will have his defense prepared next time around to better handle Kelly’s perimeter play. Shane Larkin had his way with the Blue Devils again, and Duke could not stop the Canes from penetrating and getting to the basket. The Canes also had a rare poor shooting night from the three-point line.
With the Canes already having clinched the one-seed in the ACC and with limited competition in the ACC this season, it is highly probable that these two teams meet again in the ACC Championship game in Greensboro. This time, it will be the Canes who look for revenge.