CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Coming off a thorough defeat of Virginia Tech on Wednesday night, Kenny Kadji and the rest of the Hurricanes basketball team turned their attention quickly to their game against Duke on Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
With the way Miami defeated Duke in their first meeting and with the hype quickly building as ESPN runs dramatic commercials previewing the rematch, Kadji acknowledged the importance of the game and all the factors leading into it.
“I think it’s the biggest game of the year,” Kadji said. “We can win the ACC there, the whole thing about slapping the floor (in their last meeting), and I think whoever wins that game is going to get the No. 1 ranking too.”
Duke students have been camping out for days leading up to this top 5 matchup, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the classic Duke-North Carolina rivalry games.
“It’s going to be the best game of the year, in my opinion. You know they’re ready, a coach like Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) who is in my opinion the best coach in the world, he’s going to have them ready,” Kadji said. “The whole program, like the whole school is going be ready, so to me it’s the best game of the year.”
Duke’s students are known for their trash talking and in-game rituals, but Miami’s experience in beating them at Cameron last year should certainly serve this veteran team well when it comes to dealing with the elements.
“I remember I couldn’t hear anything it was so loud, you were taking the ball out of bounds and they were like almost touching you. It was insane,” Kadji said of his memories of last year’s game. “It was a great feeling playing there. It’s so small and there’s so many students that you can literally hear what they say and everything that goes on outside the court.”
One of the big effects of the Hurricanes outstanding season has been the build-up of support on their own campus. Kadji and the rest of the team are constantly being sought out by students all over school.
“There’s so much stuff I can’t even tell you. Every single time you go to class, I mean, Facebook messages, Twitter, I mean it’s a pretty big game for everybody here.”
And now Miami gets the feeling of being the hunted, a position they have never been in this late in a season, but a position Duke is all too familiar with.
“It’s very strange, we were talking about that the first day Coach L got here and he was like ‘Who are the best teams in the ACC?’ and we said Duke and North Carolina, and now being in the place where they have to chase us, and they’re behind us, it’s kind of weird,” Kadji said.
Weird or not, Miami travels to Durham with a very clear objective.
Win Saturday, and the Hurricanes will be ACC regular season champions for the first time in program history.