CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP)
One of Miami forward Kenny Kadji's recollections about Jim Larranaga's very first team meeting with the Hurricanes was a discussion about power-brokers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Larranaga asked who the best teams were. Everyone answered Duke and North Carolina.
At least for this season, anyway, it's certainly looking like those answers would be incorrect.
The fifth-ranked Hurricanes will get a chance to wrap up the outright ACC regular-season title on Saturday night - against the third-ranked, for now anyway, Blue Devils at raucous and rowdy Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the home team has won 92 of its last 97 games, according to STATS LLC.
"Being in a place where they have to chase us, they're behind us, it's kind of weird," Kadji said. "Obviously, I saw it coming."
Duke may still be chasing Miami, but no one will pass the Hurricanes in this regular season.
The Blue Devils were beaten at Virginia on Thursday night, meaning the Hurricanes are now assured of no worse than a share of the ACC crown. The best Duke (24-4, 11-4) can hope for is to finish tied with Miami (23-4, 14-1).
So for the Hurricanes, the challenge now becomes wrapping up the outright title, which just one more win would do - and rest assured, Miami wants that clincher to come at Duke. Miami has shown it can win on the road this season, its 10 victories in opponents' arenas doubling what any other team in the conference has posted.
The Hurricanes rode the strength of 27 points from Reggie Johnson to win at Cameron last season. And the number 27 might be in Duke's heads this time, but not because of what Johnson did on their floor last year - instead, because the Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski surely remember a 27-point loss at Miami earlier this year, the program's worst regular-season defeat in nearly three decades.
"They embarrassed us," Duke guard Seth Curry said.
The Blue Devils struggled again Thursday, never leading in a 73-68 loss. The Cavaliers built a 64-50 lead with 3:23 left before closing the victory at the free-throw line.
Curry led Duke with 28 points, all but five coming after halftime, and Quinn Cook had 22.
Krzyzewski was ready when a reporter began to suggest that the Blue Devils were guilty of looking past Virginia and ahead to this matchup.
"No," he said. "We prepared hard for this game. We have not mentioned one word about Miami. ... Now we get on a plane, get to Durham and get ready.
"You have quick turnarounds, no excuses. You get beat. Next play. Let's go."
Kadji said Miami knows the stakes. And oddly, for Duke, Saturday still means plenty, considering the Blue Devils haven't even wrapped up an opening-round bye in the ACC tournament.
"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."
They'll especially be ready after Thursday night's loss. The Hurricanes were off Thursday, one day after Shane Larkin scored 22 points to help Miami top Virginia Tech 76-58.
"People have been looking forward to this game on Saturday since we played them last," Larranaga said. "But for us, we've had to take it one game at a time. ... Almost every team in the ACC plays better at home than they do on the road and Duke is no different. They've got great fan support. The place will be packed and rockin', probably hours before the game."