2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at #5 Duke

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Virginia Tech (9-4, 0-0 ACC) at #5 Duke (11-1, 0-0)

Sunday, January 4, 2009, 7:45

TV: FSN (check local listings)


Special Preview Items:

On Sunday night, we’ll find out exactly how good Virginia Tech is. The Hokies
travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the Duke Blue Devils in their ACC
opener on Sunday night. They’ll have to play their best game of the season if
they hope to walk away with a victory.

The last time Tech
played in Cameron
in the 2006-07 season, the Hokies escaped with
a 69-67 overtime victory. However, many important players in that victory are
now gone. The Hokies are going to have to rely on a new cast this time, and most
of this current team has never played a game in Cameron.

Duke is 11-1 on the season and ranked #5 in the nation. Their only loss came
to Michigan, 81-73, back on December 6. Since that loss, the Blue Devils are
3-0, including an 82-64 blowout victory over Xavier that was not nearly as close
as the score indicated. Duke looks like a legit Top 10 team, and they are easily
the best team the Hokies’ schedule thus far.

Duke Starting Lineup
Pos Name Ht Wt Year PPG RPG APG
G Nolan Smith 6-2 185 So. 10.9 2.6 2.3
G Jon Scheyer 6-5 185 Jr. 14 3.7 2.6
F Gerald Henderson 6-4 215 Jr. 12.1 3.9 1.8
F Kyle Singler 6-8 235 So. 16.3 7.8 3.4
C Brian Zoubek 7-1 280 Jr. 7.7 5 0.5

Duke is a deep basketball team that normally uses 11 players in the rotation. As
you can see, four players average in double figures. They have a lot of weapons
offensively, and the Hokies will have to play their best defensive game of the
year.

Duke is led by sophomore forward Kyle Singler. He is a very versatile player
who can beat you inside and outside. Singler is shooting 30.8% from the outside
this year, but that number is deceptive. He’s an excellent shooter who can torch
teams when he gets hot. He also leads Duke in rebounding, averaging 7.8 per
game.

Not only can Singler score and rebound, but he can distribute the ball as
well. He averages 3.4 assists per game, which is tops on the team. He is a point
forward who can do it all.

The Blue Devils have other perimeter threats who can be just as dangerous as
Singler. Jon Scheyer is a better outside shooter than Singler, hitting 38.3% of
his three-point attempts. Joining him on the outside are Gerald Henderson (36.4%
from three-point range) and Nolan Smith (38.2%). Though no one on the team is
shooting over 40% from the outside, as a group they are very effective.

Duke has a true center in Brian Zoubek. Although he’s in the starting lineup,
he only plays 14 minutes per game. Considering his limited playing time, his
scoring and rebounding numbers are very good.

Former starting point guard Greg Paulus now comes off the bench. Paulus is no
great athlete, but he’s a solid player who has deep range. He is averaging 5.2
points per game and shooting 31% from the outside.

Paulus is one of four Duke players that average at least two assists per
game. The Blue Devils are an excellent passing team. They run their offense very
quickly, and they know how to score. Duke is averaging 84 points per game on the
season, which ranks third in the ACC behind North Carolina and Wake Forest.

Besides an efficient offense, the other thing Duke does better than almost
anyone is compete. Year in and year out, the Blue Devils are arguably the
hardest playing team in the country under Coach K. They are constantly on the
floor going after loose balls, and they’ll lay their bodies on the line to draw
charges. To beat Duke, you have to match their intensity. That is something that
very few teams have been able to do throughout the years.

The Hokies are also known for how hard they play under Seth Greenberg, but so
far this year we aren’t seeing those hustle plays that Tech has become known
for. That will have to change on Sunday night if the Hokies want a chance to
win.

It all starts with playing hard, but Tech must also be able to execute.
That’s something they haven’t done particularly well this year either. The
Hokies’ halfcourt offense is inconsistent, and their defense leaves a lot to be
desired. They aren’t closing out on shooters like they have in the past, they
are getting beat off the dribble, and opposing post players have been able to
establish position.

In short, the Hokies better have improved quite a bit from their last game
against Charleston Southern if they want to compete against Duke.

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