Reporting Chris “Mac” McClain
If you are in the ABD crowd, that headline probably makes you throw up. But, I believe it is the truth. And, we will get to find out. Ryan Kelly could return to the lineup as soon as next week against VT. He is coming back, it is just a matter of when at this point.
Duke is unbeaten (15-0) this season with Ryan Kelly in the lineup and many of those wins are impressive. Duke was 6-0 against the RPI top 50 with Kelly early in the season. And, that includes wins over Lousiville, Minnesota, Ohio State and VCU. They are only 2-2 vs the top 50 without him. Last season they were 26-5 with him and just 1-2 without him, including a first round tourney loss to Lehigh.
Sure the stats say he is worth 13 points and 5 rebounds a game, but his impact on the whole team is much greater than that. He helps space the floor, which means more room for Mason Plumlee in the post and for guys like Cook, Curry and Sulaimon to drive. He also gives Plumlee help on the boards and on defense. Duke’s defensive efficiency and fg percentage defense has surprisingly dropped substantially without Kelly.
Also throw in the fact that they will be a one or two seed in a year in which there aren’t many if any great teams out there. Sure, questions remain. Will he be in shape? Will he reinjure the foot again? But, there is no doubt that Duke is a better team with Kelly. And, even without him, they are still the #3 ranked team in the country.