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Next Up - Miami

And the ‘Canes are red hot

Georgia Tech v Duke
 DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 04: A.J. Griffin #21 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 04, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 69-57.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
  • Date: 1/8
  • Time: 8:00 PM
  • Venue: Cameron Indoor Stadium
  • Video: ACCN

Next up for Duke is Miami in Cameron, and right now, Miami is a very dangerous opponent. This is for two reasons. First, Duke is likely still vulnerable as the team recovers from Covid. And second, Miami has been playing very, very well.

The ‘Canes are 12-3 and on an eight game winning streak and not every team they beat is a dog. Included in that streak are Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest and Syracuse, which puts Miami in first place in the ACC.

This comes after an injury-plagued couple of seasons too. Miami is healthy now and obviously doing well.

Jim Larrañaga has built his team around the perimeter. Kameron McGusty, Isaiah Wong and Charlie Moore are the leading scorers and get the most minutes too, which is not the case for every team as we’ll discuss shortly.

McGusty, a 6-5 senior, is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with 18.3 ppg and 6 rpg.

Wong, a 6-3 sophomore, is putting up 16.3 ppg and also 3.9 boards and 2.3 assists.

Moore, who is on his fourth school after Cal, DePaul and Kansas, is a 5-11 senior. He’s not necessarily a great athlete but he's plenty good enough. He’s getting 12 ppg, 2.8 boards and 3.9 apg.

Jordan Miller, a 6-7 junior, and Deng Gak, also a junior and 6-11, are the bigger starters.

Miller, a transfer from George Mason, is averaging 8.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg. He said this week he has dreamed his whole life of playing in Cameron.

Before he committed to Miami, Gak considered Duke. He’s had an injury-plagued career. He played 15 games in his first two seasons. Last year he got into 25 but Covid and injuries wrecked Miami’s season.

Sam Waardenburg has been coming off the bench lately but if he doesn't start, he might as well. He’s a sharp-shooting forward and 6-10, but he really doesn’t play inside all that much.

Sixth-year player Rodney Miller is available but he’s somewhat limited.

Freshman Wooga Poplar has been impressive so far, which is good since Harlond Beverly is out for the season with a back injury.

Also, Miami has had some Covid issues as well, with Waardenburg and Poplar missing last week’s game against NC State.

As you might expect from a smallish team, Miami hits fast and often. In their last outing, against Syracuse, the ‘Canes scored 58 points in the second half.

And while Duke has adapted to play smaller teams successfully this season, much like the Georgia Tech game, no one knows exactly what to expect against Miami as the Blue Devils continue to recover from Covid.

Duke is going to have to contend with Miami’s explosive perimeter game of course, and here’s something we realized recently that really surprised us. Guess who’s getting the most minutes for Duke?

It’s not Paolo Banchero. It’s not Trevor Keels. It’s not even Wendell Moore, who has been so sensational for the Blue Devils in his junior season.

No, it’s sophomore Jeremy Roach.

As you probably remember, last season, Roach, who was still overcoming a high school knee injury, was pretty erratic and it took him a while to move into the starting lineup.

This season, his offense is still somewhat quiet, but that’s fine. He’s earning his minutes on defense.

Roach is quick, he doesn't get visibly tired and he has superb body control and balance that allows him to stay unbelievably close to an opponent. And his offense is coming along too.

We woud expect him to primarily guard Charlie Moore. We’d expect Wendell Moore to draw McGusty and Keels to get Wong.

Duke will almost certainly go with Mark Williams and Paolo Banchero up front although Williams has had issues with smaller teams so don’t be surprised if he gets less time than he normally does. And that’s okay.

Duke has Banchero and Theo John to hold down the middle and also has AJ Griffin coming off the bench to fill in wherever he’s needed. He’s become a superb presence. We started to call him a sub but he’s far more valuable than that. Who else has a guy with that mix of athleticism, intelligence and versatility? He lets Duke analyze what’s happening on the floor and they can literally send him in for anyone. In for Williams? Fine. Banchero moves over. In for Banchero? He can guard a big. In for Keels? Fine. Roach. Sure. Moore? No drop-off.

He’s made Duke a much better team.

Joey Baker will also get a chance to be a difference maker here. He’s had a reputation as a shooter for some time but this season he’s also shown that he can drive, pass and defend at high levels.

Despite all of that, there’s a real chance that Duke could just run out of gas against Miami. Most of us thought that Coach K would go deep into the bench vs. Georgia Tech, but that didn't really happen with four players getting at least 35 minutes and two others getting 23 and 21 each.

Baker and John got seven and four minutes respectively, perhaps because they were still recovering.

Duke certainly proved it could win in a defensive matchup with Georgia Tech, but if the team is still lagging, getting into a running game with Miami could prove to be very draining. And keep in mind that Banchero and Moore have both dealt with cramping issues earlier in the season.

By the way, if you’re planning to go to Cameron, eat or drink ahead of time. Duke won’t have any concessions thanks to Covid.