RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Little has gone smoothly or as expected for No. 17 Duke this season.
The Blue Devils (22-7, 10-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) have faced injuries – even to their Hall of Fame coach – and a suspension for preseason Associated Press All-American Grayson Allen this season. It’s all contributed to some uneven play for the preseason top-ranked Blue Devils, whose finish to the regular season – two games, two ranked opponents – is one of the week’s biggest storylines for teams in the AP Top 25.
The current issues are an ankle injury to Allen, which sidelined him for Saturday’s loss at No. 25 Miami, as well as lingering foot pain for fifth-year senior big Amile Jefferson. Their status is unclear this week for Tuesday’s home finale against No. 15 Florida State followed by Saturday’s visit to fifth-ranked rival North Carolina.
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”Our goal is to play them,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ”I hate to be so ambivalent about it. . I wish we had more certainty, but it’s been that kind of year.”
It sure has. Freshmen Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden missed time with injuries early this season. Allen sat out a game for tripping opponents. Krzyzewski missed about a month following back surgery.
Duke had appeared to steady itself with a seven-game winning streak, but the Blue Devils have lost two straight entering Tuesday’s game and aren’t even assured to finish with a top-four seed in the ACC Tournament – and more importantly, the double-round bye that goes with it.
Beating the Seminoles and sweeping the Tar Heels, who have already clinched the No. 1 tournament seed, would be a big help.
STACKED ACC SCHEDULE: Duke’s games against FSU and UNC are only part of a full schedule of games featuring two ranked teams in the ACC.
No. 23 Virginia’s win against UNC on Monday was the first of five such games this week. Three come Saturday, with No. 8 Louisville hosting No. 19 Notre Dame and FSU hosting Miami before Duke visits UNC to close the regular season schedule.
KANSAS AT NO. 1: The Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2 Big 12) took over the top spot in the poll with Gonzaga’s weekend loss, then opened the week with Monday’s 73-63 win against Oklahoma.
Kansas closes the regular season Saturday by visiting Oklahoma State.
FRIDAY FINALE: The Big 12 has a matchup of two ranked teams, with No. 24 Iowa State visiting No. 10 West Virginia. That will be the Mountaineers’ second straight game against a ranked opponent to close the regular season; West Virginia (23-7, 11-6) lost 71-62 at No. 11 Baylor on Monday night.
CONFERENCE RANKS: The ACC again leads the way in the new poll with seven ranked teams, tying its league record. The Big 12 was the No. 2 conference this week with four ranked teams, while the Pac-12 had three: No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 Oregon and No. 7 Arizona.
WATCH LIST: There’s at least one familiar team on the watch list for teams in the ”Others Receiving Votes” category: Minnesota.
The Gophers (22-7, 10-6 Big Ten) have won seven straight games since a five-game losing streak in January, putting them in solid position to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
Minnesota was ranked No. 24 for a week in January and can make a case to return to the Top 25 when they close the regular season at No. 22 Wisconsin on Sunday.
Oklahoma State has its own chances for big wins this week. The Cowboys (20-9, 9-7 Big 12) first visit No. 24 Iowa State on Tuesday before closing the week by hosting the top-ranked Jayhawks.
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