Ryan Kelly's triumphant return to the Duke lineup gave the team a dramatic win over Miami, but when it comes to the ACC regular-season title, he came back too late: the Hurricanes have already clinched at least a share of the conference title, and will clinch sole possession with a win in either of their final two games or a loss by Duke in either of its final two games.
It's tough to imagine a scenario in which Miami manages to lose its final two regular-season games. It's true that winning 14 in a row, they've now lost two of three games, including one game to lowly Wake Forest. But the other was against Duke, who will be ranked No. 2 in next week's polls, and they needed a ridiculous 7-of-9 3-point shooting performance from Kelly, who had 36 in his first game in nearly two months -- and that only gave them a slim 79-76 win.
Suffice it to say, neither of the two remaining teams on Miami's regular-season slate is as good as Duke. The 'Canes host Georgia Tech and Clemson, both of whom are 5-11 in conference play, and both of whom have already lost to Miami on the season. With a two-game lead on Duke in the standings and two games to go, they just need to win one to head into the ACC Tournament with the No. 1 slot.
There's seeding ramifications for a few of the teams behind Miami, as the top four seeds in the conference earn first-round byes in Greensboro -- that's not big because those teams need to worry about losing in the first round to a bad team like Virginia Tech, but because they'd get an extra day off before the tourney's heavy lifting starts. You can pencil in Duke and Miami for those byes, but there's a battle between North Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina State for the fourth and fifth spots. The Tar Heels have a game up on the Cavaliers and Wolf Pack.
One has to imagine all three of those teams are capable of contending for a conference title -- Virginia and N.C. State have both already beaten Duke, and the Tar Heels have won five in a row. Virginia should be in a much safer position, but they lost Sunday on a to a BC team on a late 3-pointer, giving them a loss to a team they should have easily put away.
Here's a look at the conference standings after Sunday's games:
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