Duke is off to an impressive start, but has done so without playing a true road game.
To improve to 16-0 for the first time in seven seasons, the Blue Devils not only need a road win -- they'll need one with their third-leading scorer sidelined.The nation's No. 1 team will be without Ryan Kelly on Saturday when it visits No. 20 North Carolina State.Kelly is out indefinitely with a right foot injury he sustained in the first half of a 68-40 win against Clemson on Tuesday, and there's no timetable for his return. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he aggravated the same foot that he sprained last March, which kept him out of the conference and NCAA tournaments.The senior forward is averaging 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Blue Devils (15-0, 2-0 ACC), and is the team's leading 3-point shooter at 52.1 percent. He was shooting particularly well from distance over his last nine games, going 21 of 31."He is playing the best basketball of his career and this is a tough setback for him," Krzyzewski said. "We're hoping for a good recovery and we are optimistic about his return."After Kelly left Tuesday, Quinn Cook (11.4 ppg) helped pick up the slack, scoring 20 of his career-high 27 points in the second half. Cook was shut out on 0-for-11 shooting three days earlier in an 80-62 win against Wake Forest, but was 12 of 16 against Clemson."You obviously think about it but you know, the next time you're at practice, you've got to move on," Cook said. "Great shooters always move on to the next shot. Just to have my teammates text me and tell me, 'Tuesday, you're going to hit everything,' That's a great confidence builder."It was another big second-half performance that boosted Duke the last time these teams met. Seth Curry scored 21 of his 26 points after the break Feb. 16 at Cameron Indoor Stadium as the Blue Devils rallied from 20 points down with 11 1/2 minutes left to beat the Wolfpack 78-73.Duke on Saturday will become the last team in the country to play its first true road game, but it has reason to be confident. The Blue Devils were perfect away from Cameron in conference last season, going 8-0.N.C. State (13-2, 2-0) is 9-0 at home and has won nine in a row overall since dropping two of three in November. ACC assist leader Lorenzo Brown (6.7 per game) had game highs of 21 points and 10 assists in an 83-70 victory against Georgia Tech on Wednesday."The best thing he does is in transition -- he can really make plays in transition," Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. "He made some risky plays, too, but he's just got a flair in the open court to be able to kind of dissect a defense. I said last year as a sophomore that he was one of the premier point guards in the country, and there's no doubt about it. He's proving it night in and night out here."N.C. State's 53.0 percent shooting leads the country, and each starter averages at least 10.0 points. T.J. Warren also contributes 12.5 per game off the bench.Warren was scoreless against the Yellow Jackets and Richard Howell (12.7 ppg) only had six, but the Wolfpack's depth helped them outscore Georgia Tech 46-32 after halftime."I think the sign of having a really good team is when you can have different guys step up and score for your team," coach Mark Gottfried said. "A lot of teams don't have those multiple scorers like we do."
The Duke Blue Devils are off to a 15-0 start, beating opponents by an average of 19 points per game.
The rest of the season appears decided based on recent history, as the Coach K's young men have secured a number one seed in the NCAA tournament and lost in the sweet 16 each of the last 3 times they began a season 15-0.