Duke Basketball: What Ryan Kelly's Return Will Do for Blue Devils

Nick LantzCorrespondent IIFebruary 28, 2013

Duke will benefit from the return of senior Ryan Kelly.
Duke will benefit from the return of senior Ryan Kelly.Lance King/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils have been missing a huge part of their basketball team with the absence of Ryan Kelly, but the senior is expected to return in time for March Madness. His return will significantly strengthen the Blue Devils.

Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports reported Wednesday that Kelly has finally returned to practice.

This is the first time that the 6'11" forward has practiced with the team since injuring his foot against the Clemson Tigers in early January.

Blue Devil fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief as Kelly is nearing a return.

Earlier in the week, USA Today reported that Kelly aims to return for the team's Senior Night on Tuesday against the Virginia Tech Hokies.

This would be great timing for the Blue Devils with the ACC and NCAA tournaments drawing near.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski's squad is 24-3, ranked No. 3 in the AP and USA Today polls.

There have been so many upsets of top ranked teams so far already this season, making it difficult to determine any clear championship favorites.

Kelly's return will separate Duke from the rest of the pack and will make the Blue Devils the biggest threat in the NCAA Tournament.


Without Kelly, Duke has still been an elite team, but all three losses have come in his absence as the team is 9-3 without him.

Two of those losses came in the three games immediately following his injury in a 68-40 win over Clemson.

The Blue Devils are 15-0 with Kelly in the lineup including wins over the Ohio State Buckeyes, Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats, all of whom were ranked in the Top Five when they faced Duke.

The team has missed his 52 percent accuracy from three-point land, which is the highest on the squad.

Kelly is still No. 3 on the team in scoring average at 13.4 points per game. He was also pulling down 5.4 rebounds per game, No. 2 on the team.

It will be quite a scene if the sharp-shooting forward is able to return for Senior Night, where he would play his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a Blue Devil uniform.

If he does make it back for that game, it would also mean that Kelly would be able to contribute in the team's final regular season game, which comes on the road against their rival North Carolina Tar Heels.

When Kelly returns to the lineup, the Blue Devils will be the team to beat in college hoops.