After back-to-back perfect records at home the last two years, the Blue Devils lost their second home game in conference play Sunday when the Hurricanes came to Cameron and dominated the paint. Mason Plumlee was limited to just six points after averaging 16 points in his last three games. The other Duke forwards were equally ineffective as Miles Plumlee, Josh Hairston and Ryan Kelly combined for only 12 points. On the other end of the floor, physical frontcourt players Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji totaled 42 points and 20 rebounds. The Blue Devil forwards looked intimidated and the loss dropped Duke to third in the conference as it looks ahead to an extremely tough test.
On Wednesday night, head coach Mike Krzyzewski will lead his team to face No. 5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels are unbeaten at home this season and they have not missed a beat despite the loss of starter Dexter Strickland. Sophomore Harrison Barnes, North Carolina’s 6-foot-8 leading scorer, presents a matchup problem for the Blue Devils. Talented swingmen Mike Scott and William Buford both were able to exploit Duke’s weak spot on defense earlier this season, and Barnes is more talented than both of them.
If the Tar Heels can beat the Blue Devils Wednesday night, they will have a chance to solidify their spot at the top of the league tied with No. 19 Florida State if they can beat No. 20 Virginia Sunday. The Cavaliers lost their fourth game of the season at the hands of the Seminoles, but their losses have come by a total of ten points. Virginia struggles to score at times, averaging just 55.8 points per game in its losses. The Cavaliers will have a chance to add an impressive week if they can find a way to pull off the upset over North Carolina Saturday.
While Virginia appears to be clearly deserving of an at-large bid in March, N.C. State and Miami are both somewhere on the bubble at the start of February. The Wolfpack continue to take care of business against the bottom half of the league, but lack quality wins. The Hurricanes’ impressive win Sunday moved them to 5-3 in the conference and gave them their biggest victory of the season, but both squads will have to continue to rack up wins if the ACC hopes to earn more than the four bids it had last year.