2012-13 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #6 Duke

, TechSideline.com, on February 21, 2013
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When: February 21, 2013
Where: Cassell Coliseum
Time: 9pm
TV: ESPN

When fans look at the basketball schedule each season, they immediately look for two teams.  When do the Hokies play Carolina and Duke, and do they get a home game against those schools?  The #6 Blue Devils visit Cassell Coliseum tonight, though the game doesn’t mean as much as it has in the past.

As usual, Duke is fighting for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  However, the Hokies are just trying to fight their way out of the cellar of the ACC.  Quite a bit has changed since College Gameday visited Blacksburg for this matchup two years ago.

With Miami’s amazing season, it doesn’t look like Duke is going to be the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament.  However, the Blue Devils are still 22-3 overall, with a 9-3 mark in conference play.  Duke was upset by Maryland this past weekend, and they played a poor defensive game in the process.  You can bet that they’ll be mentally into tonight’s game.  Coach K wants his team playing well as the enter the latter stages of the season.

The Personnel

This Duke team is not as good without Ryan Kelly in the lineup, though the Blue Devils still have plenty of weapons.

G Quinn Cook (6-1, 175, So.): Cook is averaging 12.3 points and 5.8 assists per game.  He’s not particularly big, but he’s been playing major minutes since his freshman season.  He’s shooting just over 40% from three-point range.

G Seth Curry (6-2, 185, r-Sr.): Curry is shooting 41.9% from three-point range.  He averages 16.9 points per game, which is second on the team.  He’ll certainly be fired up to play tonight, as he takes on his father’s team.

G Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 185, Fr.): Sulaimon is the second leading freshman scorer in the ACC.  Like most of Duke’s players, he’s a very good shooter.  Sulaimon is shooting at a 39.2% clip from the three-point line this year while averaging 11.7 points per game.

F Josh Hairston (6-7, 240, Jr.): Hairston chose Duke over Virginia Tech coming out of high school.  He averages just 2.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, but he’s an energy player who comes up with 50-50 balls.  He could start tonight, or he could come off the bench.

F Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235, Sr.): Plumlee leads the ACC with 14 double doubles this season.  He averages 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.  He is a relentless player on the glass, and he also has 40 blocks and 24 steals.  He’s a major candidate for ACC Player of the Year.

F Amile Jefferson (6-8, 195, Fr.): Jefferson is a talented young player.  He’s Duke’s top reserve, averaging 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.  Jefferson is an athletic forward who can make plays around the rim.  Once he adds weight and maturity, he’ll be a very good player for the Blue Devils.

G Tyler Thornton (6-1, 190, Jr.): Thornton isn’t a scorer, averaging just 3.5 points per game.  However, he’s very good defensively, and Coach K trusts him to make the right decisions on the court.  He can knock down the open three-pointer, though he’s not going to attempt that shot very often.

F Alex Murphy (6-8, 220, r-Fr.): Murphy is the eighth man in the rotation for Duke.  He averages just 6.7 minutes per game.

As you can see, the Blue Devils are not a deep basketball team.  The loss of Ryan Kelly hurt them tremendously on both ends of the floor.  They have four good scorers in their starting lineup, but nobody to rely upon off the bench.

Whatever happens in tonight’s game, depth won’t be an excuse for Virginia Tech.  The Blue Devils have more talent overall obviously, but they have the same depth issues.

Can the Hokies Be Competitive?

Virginia Tech was not a good basketball team last season, yet in two of their three meetings with Duke, the Hokies played very well.  They were soundly beaten in Cassell Coliseum 75-60, but took Duke to overtime in Cameron Indoor Stadium before falling 70-65.  The Blue Devils also beat the Hokies 60-56 in a very good game in the ACC Tournament.

Does that mean the Hokies can do it tonight?  Everyone gets up emotionally to play Duke, and you can bet that Erick Green will be ready to play.  However, will that matter?  The Hokies have only eight scholarship players, and several of them simply aren’t being productive right now.  Unless they turn things around in a hurry, tonight’s game is not a good matchup.

Duke will extend their defense and pressure the basketball, so look for the Hokies to use an extra ball handler tonight.  Marquis Rankin should get extended minutes.  This game will be all about playing defense, and getting penetration with Erick Green.  I’m confident that Green will get his points, but will the Hokies be able to slow down the Blue Devils on the defensive end?  That’s something they’ve struggled to do against everyone this season.

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