2006-07 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at #5 Duke

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Virginia Tech (10-4, 1-0 ACC) at #5 Duke (13-1, 0-0)

Saturday, January 6, 2006, noon


Special Preview Items:

Virginia Tech returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium this Saturday, the site of their
most heartbreaking loss in recent memory. The Hokies led Duke 75-74 with
1.6 seconds remaining on December 4, 2005, but a prayer from near half
court by Sean Dockery gave the then-#1 Blue Devils a 77-75 victory. Duke
is ranked #5 now, and they aren’t nearly as experienced, but they are
still Duke. The Hokies are going to have to play very well to have a
chance at the upset victory.

Duke is 13-1 on the season, and that’s a very impressive 13-1. The Blue
Devils have victories over seven top 100 teams, according to
RealTimeRPI.com. They have defeated #14 Air Force, #31 Davidson, #26
Indiana, #40 Georgetown, #96 Holy Cross, #29 Gonzaga and #93 Temple.

Duke’s lone loss came to 12-2 Marquette 73-62. Against the sixth
toughest schedule in the country to this point, the Blue Devils are 13-1.
That’s impressive. It’s even more impressive when you consider how much
youth they have on their team. Take a look at their starting lineup.

Starting Lineup
Pos Name Ht Wt Year Points Rebs


Greg Paulus

8.1 1.9


DeMarcus Nelson

14.5 5.6


Jon Scheyer

10.6 3.1


David McClure

4.9 5.1


Josh McRoberts

12.6 7.9

Junior guard DeMarcus Nelson is the elder statesman of the group, and
he is the only player on the roster that is not a freshman or sophomore.
That qualifies Duke as being one of the youngest teams in the country, and
it shows that Coach K truly is one of the greatest of all time. Not many
coaches could lead a group this young to a 13-1 start against a very tough

Not only are they young, but the Blue Devils are small as well. They
feature just two true inside players on their roster. Starting power
forward Josh McRoberts, at 6-10, 240, is the biggest name on the team,
while 7-1, 250 freshman center Brian Zoubek plays 10 minutes per game.
Duke has also used 6-8, 215 forward Lance Thomas in the starting lineup
for 10 games, but he has missed the last two games with an ankle injury.

McRoberts entered the season with a lot of hype, and he truly is one of
the best all around players in the ACC. He is second on his team in
scoring and first in rebounds. He also has 59 assists, tops on his team,
and an amazing number for a power forward. To compare, he would rank
second in assists on Virginia Tech’s guard-heavy team behind Jamon Gordon,
who has 60.

McRoberts is also a very good defensive player. He has used his
superior athleticism to block 37 shots. He hasn’t been as big a scorer as
many thought he would be, but he could enjoy a huge game against Virginia
Tech. The Hokies are somewhat soft on the inside, where they lack a real
physical presence. Tech also hasn’t shown much scoring punch from their
inside players, so McRoberts could be on his way to a huge game
offensively and defensively.

DeMarcus Nelson has stepped up his game with the loss of J.J. Redick
and Dockery from the backcourt. Nelson averages a team-high 14.5 points
per game. He is shooting 50.7% from the field, and 41.8% from three-point
range. He is joined in the backcourt by point guard Greg Paulus, who
started slowly but has played well lately. Paulus is hitting 51.3% of his
outside shots.

Duke’s top freshman is 6-5 guard Jon Scheyer. Scheyer is capable of
lighting it up from three-point range if he is left unguarded and should
develop into one of the ACC’s top outside shooters before his career is

Duke’s defensive numbers are phenomenal, no matter how you slice it.
The Blue Devils are allowing just 53.4 points per game, and opponents are
shooting just 37.5% from the field. Opposing teams are even worse from the
outside, shooting just 24% from three-point range.

Despite their lack of size, Duke enjoys a +6.9 rebounding margin
advantage over their opponents. That is partly due to the number of missed
shots by their opponents.

As good as they are defensively, Duke doesn’t have the firepower on
offense since losing J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. The Blue Devils are
averaging just 68.9 points per game, which ranks dead last in the ACC.
They shoot just 46.6% from the field, which is 10th in the ACC.

But Duke can stroke the three-pointers. The Blue Devils are hitting
40.5% of their three-pointers as a team, which ranks second in the ACC.

The Hokies definitely have the advantage in turnover margin. Tech
currently leads the ACC with a turnover margin of +6.64, while Duke is
next-to-last at -0.57. The Hokies have more athleticism in the backcourt
and at wing than the Blue Devils, and they’ll have to use that to their
advantage and win the turnover battle if they want to have a chance to win
the game.

The game features the ACC’s two worst teams in scoring offense (The
Hokies average 73.6 points, while Duke averages 68.9) and the two best
teams in scoring defense (Duke allows 53.4 points, and VT allows 57.8).
This has the makings of a low-scoring, ugly basketball game.

Bourbonstreet’s View

Our hoopster Hokies visit a place that left a very bad taste in our
collective mouths last December, traveling to play the #5 ranked Duke
Blue-Devils in front of the Cameron Crazies. This game is the first one
for the Hokies vs. one of the two crown jewels of ACC hoops. In the past,
Seth Greenberg-coached teams have upped their ante vs. big names or when
given big-time exposure. Noon Saturday affords us an appetizing mix of
both. (ESPN will televise the game, “… and Duke is Duke, they are
on TV more than Leave it to Beaver reruns.” -Pete Gillen-)

But who will win? Duke is sitting on top of a pretty good looking 13-1
overall record, which includes going 2-1 vs. ranked teams this year. Duke
has only allowed more than 56 points one time this year while playing and
winning on their own home court. The one team to beat Duke this year
(Marquette), followed the precise game plan that Coach Greenberg is very
likely to employ vs. the Blue Devils. Marquette got more FTA’s on dribble
penetration by their two guards and owned a +10 turnover margin vs. the
Blue Devils, who only field one upperclassman in their Top-12 playing
rotation this year.

That typed, Duke is phenomenal on defense as their national rankings
clearly illustrate: checking in at 4th in scoring defense, 1st in 3-point
field-goal percentage allowed, and 13th in defensive field goal percentage
allowed. Our Hokies check in at 24th in scoring defense; so this one has
all the makings of a fifty-something to fifty-something kinda ACC hoops
game. Our Hokies have a 149 spot edge in turnovers, and a 49 spot edge in
steals. That reads suspiciously like what Marquette did to Duke in terms
of winning the turnover margin battle back in November. I like that, and I
like the fact that Coleman Collins typically wakes up just in time to play
big vs. big-name teams.

Virginia Tech 59, Duke 57

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