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Duke vs Miami Pick NCAA Hoops – Jan 23rd

It might seem like a bit of hyperbole, but plenty of folks down in South Florida are calling this the biggest and most anticipated Miami Hurricane regular-season basketball game ever.  Radio stations have been talking about the Duke game (in between Manti Te’o, Lance Armstrong and NFL chatter of course) for close to a week – which by modest UM hoops standards, equates to a TON of hype.

Such is life when you are a Duke Blue Devil.  Every game isn’t a rivalry to YOU, but you can rest assured it is to THEM.  Road crowds are at a fever pitch every time Coach K and company come to visit, and with their newly minted #1 ranking attached, you can throw even more fuel on the emotional fire.

But will it be enough?  Will the emotion and hype be enough to carry an obviously less-skilled Miami team to the home upset win over the Dukies??  Let’s dig inside some numbers and trends and see if we can find a winning edge to tonight’s marquee ACC matchup.

Duke Blue Devils -2 at Miami Hurricanes

Miami enters this game at 3-1 in ACC play (13-3 overall) with each of their three conference wins by at least 16 points.  Of course, keep in mind all three games were played at home and were against Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Wake Forest – none of who will even sniff the NCAA Tournament.  Their only road game was a competitive loss at NC State.

My point is, it is hard to know exactly what to expect from the Miami Hurricanes.  They have played well against lousy competition in conference.  They have also beaten a few good teams out of league play; Michigan State the first and foremost, and they have lost to Florida Gulf Coast (coincidentally, a common opponent between they and the Blue Devils, who won with ease).

You do know what to expect from Duke, however.  A solid, solid performance every time out.  Their lone loss this season was a fierce and competitive road loss at NC State, who remember was everyone’s preseason pick to WIN the ACC.  They own wins over Kentucky, Ohio State on the road, Temple by 23, Davidson by 17, Louisville, VCU and Minnesota.  No one in the country has a more impressive haul of wins.  Their 3-1 ACC mark mirrors Miami in every way; same three wins by equally large margins and the same road loss.

Miami beat Duke in Cameron Indoor last season in what was one of the more surprising losses of the season for Duke (um, not quite as big as Lehigh in the Tourney though…), but overall Duke has dominated this rivalry, winning 12 of 13 matchups prior to last season’s upset.

So the big question is, do the Dukies get ambushed for the second time in three weeks by a hostile ACC road crowd who views that night’s game as the defining moment of their season?  It would be easy to say yes, but I am going to say no.  I think Duke comes in focused and handles their business against a keyed-up, but less talented Miami team.  Duke has handled every challenger this season, with the exception of the tough loss at the Wolfpack.  They are used to being in hostile arenas and beating top competition.  The Canes are a good ballclub, but I wouldn’t consider them “top competition.”

I don’t think many pollsters or voters will after tonight’s game either.  Give me Duke laying the slim two points in South Florida.

Free Pick:  Duke Blue Devils -2