2004-05 Basketball Preview: Virginia Tech at #2 Duke

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Virginia Tech (11-6, 4-2 ACC) vs. #2 Duke (15-1, 5-1 ACC)

Sunday, January 30th, 2005, 8:00 pm


FoxSportsNet – National; ComCast SportsNet; Sunshine Network

Special Preview Items:

It has been a fun two weeks for the Hokies, who have notched four ACC wins in the last 14 days,
but now they head into one of the most feared venues in college sports, Cameron Indoor Stadium, to take on one of the
most storied programs in college basketball, the Duke Blue Devils. Hokie fans will be glued to their TV sets Sunday
night to watch a Virginia Tech team that has made great strides take the measure of themselves against one the
toughest opponents they’ll face the rest of the season.

Way back on December 19th, the Hokies hosted North Carolina, and the Tar Heels outscored VT
65-32 over the last 27:46 of the game for an easy 85-51 win. But that was a Virginia Tech team that hadn’t completely
settled its rotation and was playing without the services of sophomore center Coleman Collins. Six weeks later, VT is
on a five-game roll, including four straight ACC wins, and they are no doubt anxious to see once again how they stack up against
the ACC’s best.

Duke is 15-1, finally losing their first game of the season the other night, when they dropped a
home game to Maryland 75-66. The Blue Devils are thinner than usual this year, hurt by the defections of Luol Deng
and incoming recruit Sean Livingston to the NBA. But coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski (709-241 career record) has put
the team on the shoulders of stars JJ Redick, Daniel Ewing and Shelden Williams, and they have delivered, not running
out of steam until last Wednesday against Maryland.

Junior J.J. Redick, from Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, leads the ACC in scoring by over 3
points a game, knocking it down at 21.6 points a contest. Redick is renowned for his three-point shooting prowess, but
he’s actually just 8th in the ACC, at a mere 42.1%. Tech’s own Zabian Dowdell hits the outside jumper at 44.4%, good
for 3rd in the league.

All kidding aside, you can’t allow Redick to spot up unguarded, because he has the prettiest
jumper in the ACC. Where he really excels is at the free throw line, where he shoots 95.7% and is #1 all-time in the
NCAA in free throw percentage, at 94.4% (334-of-354).

Daniel Ewing (16.1 PPG, team-high 66 assists) is a senior who runs the show from the point,
while junior Shelden Williams, at 6-9, 250 pounds, scores 15.8 points per game and leads the ACC in rebounding by
nearly two a game at 11.4 rebounds per game.

Duke’s other two starters are 6-6, 205-pound junior forward Lee Melchionni (7.1 ppg) and 6-2,
185-pound junior guard Sean Dockery (6.2 ppg). The Blue Devils might start 6-10, 240-pound junior forward Shavlik
Randolph (5.8 ppg), who missed four games with mono but has recently returned to the lineup.

As a team, the Blue Devils will put a lot of pressure on Tech’s exterior defense, because Duke
has four players who shoot over 35% from three-point range: Ewing (35.8%), Melchionni (39.7%), Dockery (41.4%), and
Redick (42.1%). Those four players have taken 315 of Duke’s 349 three-pointers. If they miss, Williams is there to
clean the glass and put it back in: he averages 4.0 offensive rebounds per game and shoots 60.1%.

The Hokies will counter with:

  • Dowdell’s outside shooting, noted above as being third-best in the conference
  • Jamon Gordon’s defensive prowess (ACC-leading 2.88 steals per game) and passing ability (4.8
    assists, 4th in the ACC)
  • Coleman Collins’ athleticism (11.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg, neither stat indicative of how good he’s
    playing right now)
  • Senior guard Carlos Dixon, who leads the team not just in clutch plays but in scoring at 14.9
    ppg, and he’s tied for 9th in the ACC at 41.7% from three-point land.

Here is the team statistic comparison, and you can see that Duke is in the top four in the ACC
in most categories.

Key Statistics


VT (ACC Rank)

Duke (ACC Rank)

Points Per Game

70.9 (10)

81.1 (4)

Points Against

65.8 (5)

61.9 (1)


.442 (10)

.475 (4)

3-Pt. FG%

.346 (7)

.378 (4)


.653 (10)

.725 (2)

Rebound Ave.

31.9 (11)

38.6 (6)

Rebounding Margin

-5.3 (11)

+4.8 (4)


10.8 (2) 9.8 (5)

Turnover Margin

7.6 (1)

+3.2 (3)

This matchup is between two of the better defensive teams in the league, with both in the top
five in terms of points against, steals, and turnover margin. The difference in this game is likely to be in Duke’s
offensive prowess, where they outscore the Hokies by 10.2 points a game, outshoot them, hit it better from the
outside, and knock it down much better from the free throw line. As with most VT games, Tech’s poor
rebounding will be a factor, as well.

The Hokies can’t expect to enjoy the big turnover margin that has benefited them in many games
this year, and they’re likely to get outrebounded. Tech will have to clamp down on the exterior defense, hope the Blue
Devils have a poor shooting game, and hope that Coleman Collins can battle Williams to a stand-still.

Virginia Tech will claw and scrap, like they have all year, and try to hang around and give
themselves a chance to win in the end. But if this one gets away from them, as expected, the thing to look for is
matchups, and to figure out if the Hokies have a good chance to exploit a few things when the two teams meet again on
February 17th, in Cassell Coliseum.

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