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Next Up - Miami

Time: 4:00 || Venue: Watsco Center || Video: CBS

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Duke v Miami
Matt Jones, shown defending Sheldon McClellan in 2016, could be a key factor for Duke’s defense.
Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

When Duke and Miami met in Cameron, it was a tale of two halves: Miami was tremendous in the first half and took a 36-25 lead to the locker room. In the second half though, Duke took the Hurricanes to the woodshed and behind a 20-0 run won 70-58.

That was a heck of a turnaround.

Don’t expect it twice.

A lot has changed since then and for both teams.

Duke went into that game without Coach K, who was out with back surgery and having lost back-to back games with Florida State and Louisville.

A third loss would have been devastating.

Miami entered that game as a still-young team. Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton were the only meaningful upperclassmen. Freshman Bruce Brown emerged quickly this season and scored 15 against Duke; fellow freshman Dewan Huell had seven.

Reed had 19 and Newton had 13. Murphy was held to four. Miami got no points from the bench.

This team has grown has grown up a lot since then.

After losing to Duke, Miami nipped BC by one then just smoked a complacent UNC by 18.

The ‘Canes have only lost to Florida State and Louisville since leaving Cameron.

Newton will come off a three game suspension during which Miami also had other issues including illness and injury.

None of it mattered. Miami knocked off Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia with seven players available. This team has shown real grit and toughness. In our opinion, at this moment, there is no team in the ACC more worthy of respect than the Hurricanes and the case for Coach of The Year will probably come down to Miami’s Jim Larranaga and Georgia Tech’s Josh Pastner.

Pastner’s done a stunning job but so has Larranaga.

He’ll presumably have eight players for the Duke rematch.

Duke retains a considerable advantage in size. Sophomore Ebuka Izundu is 6-10 and 230 He may become a consistently good player but he’s not there yet. In the four games after the Duke game he failed to score. Since then he’s hit for 16, 8, 8, 2, 12 and 6. In the last five games he’s pulled down 14 rebounds.

He doesn’t necessarily have to score or rebound to be effective in Miami’s system. Michael Ojo barely plays for FSU but he gives them what they need: a big body in the middle.

On the other hand, Kameron Murphy was weak offensively for a lot of the season. He’s really picked it up lately and is averaging 10.8 ppg. He’s never been a big scorer so that’s great for Miami.

The guy we’re keeping an eye on is Dejan Vasiljevic.

He’s from Melbourne, and like a lot of Aussie guards has no reservations about shooting.

He’s vastly improved - possibly as much as anyone in the ACC - over the last month or so. Miami wouldn’t have beaten Tech or Virginia without him.

Duke of course is also coming off of a painful loss at Syracuse. After that game, Mike Krzyzewski didn’t kick his team out of the locker room or anything but he did say pretty plainly that Duke didn’t win because Duke made too many mistakes and let Syracuse be in a position to win.

Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen are both playing with lingering injuries and that doesn’t help either.

We’ll have to see how Duke reacts to that. It could be a positive or a negative. There have been seasons where Duke took a couple of games to shake off a loss.

This game is more important than it would have been if Duke had prevailed in balmy Syracuse (the temperature was in the 60s and people wore shorts during the day - in upstate New York).

Now the Devils face a motivated, united and confident Miami. Duke has some advantages but Miami does as well.

We’ve said this before, several times lately in fact, but it’s true: we keep seeing tantalizing hints from Harry Giles. Against Syracuse it was that incredibly quick little shot under the basket and against Virginia it was a pair of steals, one of which made us sit up a littler straighter.

He’s fought back from serious knee problems and is on the verge of regaining his reputation. It may not come before the end of the season, but it won’t surprise at all if we see a major eruption from him at any point.

It’s also worth pointing out that since that first game, Jayson Tatum has emerged as a highly dangerous player.

Everything has changed except for this: you can’t predict much at all in the ACC this season.

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