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Next Up - Miami

A rematch between two teams that are not the same as they were

Duke v Miami
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 04: Matthew Hurt #21 of the Duke Blue Devils battles for a rebound with Sam Waardenburg #21 of the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at the Watsco Center on January 04, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Next up for Duke is a rematch with Miami. Duke beat Miami handily down there on January 4th, winning 95-62.

That was the last time that Duke had its full roster.

Wendell Moore went out in the second half with what turned out to be a broken finger and hasn’t played since. Joey Baker missed the Clemson game with an ankle injury.

Duke’s defense and rebounding have suffered since he left, as has the rotation. Moore’s versatility allowed Duke a ton of options, some of which he took with him to the bench.

Duke’s challenge is to adapt to his absence which means everyone has to pick up other jobs and duties.

Results? It’s a mixed bag so far.

Matthew Hurt has long since proven that he can be a great offensive player. Defense? He has a ways to go.

Alex O’Connell has proven that he can do many things but O’Connell is still a very thin player and can’t provide Moore’s strength. That may be why he barely played against Louisville in what Coach K called the most physical game Duke has played in decades.

No one on this team plays with the visible fire of warrior Joey Baker but Baker is the kind of player who, like Steve Wojciechowski, will have to use that fire to overcome his relatively modest physical gifts.

So that’s one issue.

Another is that as ACC competition heats up, people are finding ways to guard Vernon Carey and for the first time, he’s pressing a bit. We’re sure if we’ve noticed it the staff has and is addressing it.

The obvious thing is that focusing on Carey leaves less pressure on the perimeter which ideally frees up three point shooters.

You can’t guard everything. You eventually have to make choices - as long as the threes fall.

And one other is that Duke has developed an unfortunate habit of starting slow.

We’d love to see Duke come out and just attack from the jump ball. That would do the team a world of good.

Duke has lost two straight games and people feel like there’s been a death in the family. We get it. We have those feelings too.

However, Coach K said after the Louisville game that while losses are painful, these will help a very young Duke team. And to an extent we can see his point.

Look at the change in play of Cassius Stanley.

Originally Duke’s last recruit and expected to fight for playing time, Stanley won time early and has built on it. Our main criticism of him is that he was timid around the basket but he seems to have shed that lately and is becoming aggressive and powerful inside.

As much as anyone, Stanley has blossomed in Moore’s absence. He’s still not as strong as he should be but his athleticism is off the charts and he’s learning now how to exploit it.

Duke still has a lot of weapons - Carey, Stanley, Hurt, Baker, O’Connell, Tre Jones, Jordan Goldwire, Jack White and Javin DeLaurier - and that’s a problem for Miami. Because while the Hurricanes have some talent, the team isn’t very deep. Miami has lost four of its last five and the loss to Florida State, a game that went into overtime, shows the cost.

Miami went functionally seven deep. Isaiah Wong played two minutes but that may have been because three of the main seven had four fouls.

Sam Waardenburg played 41 minutes. Chris Lykes played 42. DJ Vasiljevic played 40. Kameron McGusty played 36.

Unless Miami gets someone to develop rapidly or can get Keith Stone back, or Deng Ack somehow, which seems highly unlikely, they have eight guys, period. And they’re not big guys either.

Miller is 7-0 and Waardenburg is 6-10 but Miller has not found consistency on either end and Waardenburg weighs just 216. Get those two in foul trouble and things get easier in a hurry.

Lykes of course is a superb athlete but he’s just 5-7 and he’s the focus. Duke is going to send Jones and Goldwire at him. Stanley will likely draw Vasiljevic and may spend time on McGusty too.

The way to attack Miami is to limit Lykes as much as possible and to try to get their big men in foul trouble. They’re a well-coached and admirable team, but they have some real vulnerabilities and teams have been attacking those and we expect Duke will try to do that too.

One other thing we’d keep an eye on here: Jones said he felt personally responsible for Duke’s loss to Louisville. He may come out extremely fired up. Just file that away for now.