Following an extended layoff, Duke will have more than one chance to flaunt its latest No. 1 ranking over a two-day span.
Back atop the poll for the first time in two seasons, the Blue Devils play the first of two home games on consecutive nights Wednesday versus Cornell.With final exams finished, Duke (9-0) takes the court for the first time since a 90-67 win over Temple on Dec. 8. The Blue Devils will do so as the nation's top-ranked team after moving up one spot following Indiana's 88-86 overtime loss to Butler on Saturday.Last ranked No. 1 during the week of Feb. 21, 2011, Duke has played more games at that spot (209) than as an unranked team (141) in 33 years under coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils have certainly earned their latest distinction, sporting three wins over foes ranked among the top four when the teams played -- Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State."We're proud of it. I think it's a lot different than a preseason ranking," said forward Mason Plumlee, who averages an ACC-best 11.3 rebounds and ranks second with 19.2 points. "We feel like we've earned it, not like we've been given anything. (But) if we don't get any better during the season, we're not going to be No. 1 at the end of the season."Duke, averaging 80.0 points overall, has shot 50.0 percent while outscoring Delaware and Temple 178-117 in two games this month. An ankle injury kept senior Seth Curry out of the 88-50 win over the Blue Hens on Dec. 1, but he returned to go 5 of 9 from 3-point range and finish with 23 points against the Owls.Though the Blue Devils are winning by an average 16.1 points, they know their opponents will turn up the intensity even more now that they are playing as the top-ranked team in the country."We even know when we watch film on a team that they'll be a different team against us because that's almost always the case," said Plumlee, shooting a team-best 61.1 percent despite going 5 for 14 against Temple. "They'll shoot a little better, play a little better and maybe the No. 1 ranking adds to that. We consistently get teams' best (effort)."Plumlee is confident Duke can continue to succeed under its new moniker and despite not having played in more than a week. Winners of an NCAA-best 98 straight non-conference home games, the Blue Devils follow this contest by hosting Elon on Thursday.This is the fourth time in five seasons Duke will home games on consecutive nights."I don't anticipate us being rusty -- if anything, we might be a little overanxious to play," Plumlee said. "This team loves to play, so when we don't get a game in a week or so, you can get a little anxious."The Blue Devils are facing Cornell (4-6) for the first time since they improved to 4-0 in the series with an 81-67 victory Jan. 6, 2008.The Big Red are led by sophomore Shonn Miller, who averages 10.3 points and 8.2 boards. Miller, who has totaled 33 points and 29 rebounds in the last two games, pulled down a career-high 15 boards in Monday's 66-55 loss at Vanderbilt.Cornell lost to then-No. 22 Wisconsin 73-40 on Nov. 18 for its fifth consecutive defeat against a Top 25 opponent.