Even minus Kelly, Duke returns to No. 1
Duke doesn’t have all the pieces from the team that earned college basketball’s No. 1 ranking earlier this season.
Yet the Blue Devils found themselves back in that position again on Monday.
After one week out of the top spot, Duke was voted No.1 in the new Associated Press Top 25 poll.
The Blue Devils (16-1, 3-1 in the ACC) had been No. 1 for four weeks from late December until they suffered their lone loss, an 84-76 setback at N.C. State on Jan. 12.
Duke was ranked No. 3 last week behind No.1 Louisville and No. 2 Indiana. When both those teams dropped conference home games, the Blue Devils moved back into the top spot, gaining the most first-place votes (39) from the 65-member national media panel.
Duke is back on top despite still playing without senior forward Ryan Kelly, who remains out indefinitely with a right foot injury. Having split the two games since Kelly’s injury on Jan. 8 against Clemson, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said the is making adjustments.
“I think as you go along,” Krzyzewski said Monday, “you're going to be more familiar with one another, and when that guy is out, you get accustomed to that better the longer he’s out.”
That said, Krzyzewski added hope for Kelly to return this season.
“We don’t want him out for as long as he may be out,” Krzyzewski said.
In the 6-11 Kelly’s place, Duke is using junior Josh Hairston, freshman Amile Jefferson and redshirt freshman Marshall Plumlee to fill the minutes. That doesn’t mean Krzyzewski thinks they’ve replaced Kelly.
“One guy is not going to take Ryan's place,” Krzyzewski said. “Amile, Josh, Marshall, all three of those guys have got to give us what they can give us. It's different, but if they're playing hard and they're going to their strengths, then obviously they can all be of assistance to us.”
Jefferson, an athletic 6-8 forward, turned in a sold performance in Duke;s 73-57 win over Georgia Tech last Thursday night. Jefferson played 28 minutes off the bench, compared to Hairston’s 11 despite being a starter. Jefferson had 10 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
But he also committed four fouls. In Duke’s first game after Kelly’s injury, at N.C. State, Jefferson fouled out.
Krzyzewski said that’s a sign of how difficult it is for a talented high school player to adjust to the high-level college game.
“For big guys, they've never had to play defense like they have to play in college in high school,” Krzyzewski said. “It's the most dramatic difference for a big guy, much more than a point guard or a wing player, is how you adjust and what's allowed, when can you put a forearm on, when does the forearm have to be off, verticality, making sure your hands are straight up. And then sometimes it comes where people who are officiating the game have to get accustomed to you.”
To make that point, Krzyzewski mentioned a couple of plays against N.C. State where Jefferson didn’t get the benefit of the doubt.
“He had a couple calls where his hands were straight up,” Krzyzewski said, “but he's so long, he's got a great wing span, that you're not accustomed to that, and then it can appear, well, maybe he fouled when he didn't. That’s just a period of adjustment that a young player has to go through.”
Monday’s AP poll offered another wrinkle for Duke as Miami moved into the rankings at No. 25. The Hurricanes (13-3, 4-0) lead the ACC and will welcome Duke to the Bank United Center on Wednesday night (7 p.m., ESPN).