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Report: Ryan Kelly to return before the NCAA tournament

Feb 26, 2013, 12:26 PM EDT

Ryan Kelly

It appears that ‘if’ is no longer the correct term to use when discussing the return of Ryan Kelly to the Duke lineup this season.

At this point, it’s a matter of when.

At least that’s what Mike Krzyzewski told USA Today’s Eric Prisbell on Tuesday.

“It would not be this week,” Coach K told Prisbell. “Depending upon on what he is able to do this week will determine if he can play next week or for the ACC tournament. We definitely believe he is going to play before the NCAA tournament.”

The question now is just how good Kelly will be when he gets back on the court. Sitting out for two months while being forced to use crutches and a walking boot is not exactly an ideal way for an athlete to prepare for the NCAA tournament. When Kelly does return, his timing is going to be off. He’s not going to be in game shape. He’s not going to have the kind of strength in his legs that’s he’s used to. How well is he going to be able to shoot the ball? How well is he going to be able to handle the ball?

More importantly, how long is it going to take for him to get back into mid-season form?

With Kelly in the lineup, Duke was arguably the best team in the country. Kelly was such an important piece given his ability to defend multiple positions and stretch the floor for Mason Plumlee in the paint.

If he can get back to that level, the Blue Devils will be a favorite to win the national title.

They’re still a contender if Kelly isn’t the same player, but they won’t be the same team that ran through everyone in their path back in November and December.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.