Hopefully, this will be the first in an intermittent series of posts poking holes in the popular narratives using facts and data and stuff.

After Ryan Kelly's triumphant return Saturday, all people want to talk about is how his return will help the Blue Devils on offense. Indeed, the Devils have been a much better team with with the senior in the lineup. However, using our Net Efficiency Margin metric, we see that Kelly's absence manifested itself far more on defense than on offense.

All numbers are prior to March 2 game against Miami.

DukeOff NEMDef NEMTotal NEM
With Kelly (15 games) 16.3-17.734.0
Without Kelly (13 games) 18.5-6.224.7

In other words, after accounting for tempo and opponent strength Duke was actually slightly better as a team on offense during Kelly's 13-game absence, but they were significantly worse (11.5 points per 100 possessions) on defense. (Lower defensive NEM values are better.)

Let's temper the title favorites talk based on a single game where they needed a performance described - by Coach K, no less - as one of the best ever by a Duke player in Cameron to win by one possession at home. However, if they can regain that defensive form and continue to get performances like Kelly's 36-point outburst, the Devils will be contenders in Atlanta.