“It’s going to be a blast,” UM senior guard Trey McKinney Jones said. “We beat them here this year, and we beat them there last year, so they’re going to be gunning for our heads.”
Duke is 14-0 at home this season, and the team could get a big lift if 6-11 senior forward Ryan Kelly returns to the lineup after sitting out since Jan. 8 with a foot injury. Kelly practiced this week, and coach Mike Krzyzewski will make a game-time decision on his status, just as Larranaga did with Johnson the day of the first Duke game. Johnson had broken his thumb and wasn’t expected to play, but he did, which might have messed with Duke’s psyche a bit as the center had scored 27 against the Blue Devils last February.
The fact that Duke considers UM a rival is taking some getting used to for the Hurricanes.
“It’s very strange,” forward Kenny Kadji said. “In our first meeting with Coach Larranaga when he got here, he asked us, ‘Who are the best teams in the ACC?’ And we said, ‘Duke and North Carolina,’ and now being in a place where they have to chase us … they’re behind us. It’s kind of weird.”
He went on to say he expects Saturday’s game to be a thriller.
“It’s going to be the best game of the year, in my opinion,” Kadji said. “A coach like Coach K, who in my opinion is the best coach in the world, he’s going to have them ready. The whole program, the whole school is going to be ready.”
Larranaga agreed: “People have been looking forward to this game since we played them last. They’ve got great fan support, and the place will be packed and rockin’, probably hours before the game.”
Rematch. Revenge. March Madness is here.