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Was Duke’s loss due to Ryan Kelly’s absence?

Duke Blue Devils Austin Rivers walks off the court after missing a basket in the final second of their loss to Florida State University in their ACC college basketball tournament game in Atlanta

Duke Blue Devils guard Austin Rivers (0) walks off the court after missing a basket in the final second of their loss to Florida State University in the second half of their ACC college basketball tournament game in Atlanta, Georgia March 10, 2012. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


I really want to stay on the Duke bandwagon.

I’m trying my hardest to do it, but after the No. 6 Blue Devils’ 62-59 loss to No. 17 Florida State in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament on Saturday evening, I’m finding it harder and harder to do so.

Look, I know that Duke has their flaws. This isn’t a secret. I’ll even list them for you: their perimeter defense is a sieve, they don’t have anyone to matchup with bigger small forwards, the Plumlees are as enigmatic as they are athletic and there isn’t a point guard on the roster ready to run this team.

I know this. You know this. Coach K knows this.

But what this team has been able to accomplish this season is impressive. They’ve beaten North Carolina, Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, Washington, Davidson, Belmont (the list goes on). That matters, and its why Duke still had an outside shot at getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament had they been able to win the ACC Tournament.

And despite all of their issues, those wins -- combined with their ability to shoot the three and the fact that they have a guy that wants the ball in the clutch in Rivers -- were enough to convince me: Duke has a shot at the Final Four. Would I bet on it? Probably not. But I wasn’t prepared to write them off the same way that other folks had.

Well, it is getting tougher and tougher to feel that way.

The Blue Devils got worked by North Carolina at home on the last day of the regular season. They struggled to beat a Virginia Tech team that, surprisingly, isn’t even close to the bubble. And now they lost to Florida State, which cost the Blue Devils the season series with the ‘Noles.

The question that we have to ask is whether or not Ryan Kelly’s injury is what cost them this win, and it very well maybe. Duke’s not going to beat anyone with their defense this season, and Kelly’s ability to play as a stretch four is so important to their offensive attack.

I’m not going to say Duke is incapable of making a Final Four yet.

But its getting less and less likely that I am going to be picking them in my bracket.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.