2008-09 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #7 Duke

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Virginia Tech (17-10, 7-6 ACC, #52 RPI) vs. #7 Duke (23-5, 9-4, #3 RPI)

Saturday, February 28, 2009, 3:30

TV: ABC HD


Special Preview Items:

Each victory makes the next game even bigger. After a huge win at #12 Clemson
in Wednesday night, the Hokies welcome #7 Duke into Cassell Coliseum on Saturday
afternoon. A win would guarantee Tech at least an 8-8 record in ACC play, and it
would strengthen their case for an NCAA tournament berth.

Duke beat Virginia Tech 69-44 back in early January, but this should be a
much more entertaining game. The Blue Devils aren’t defending nearly as well as
they were early in the season. They are also on their third starting point guard
of the year.

Another important factor is that this will be Duke’s third game in just seven
days. They beat Wake Forest in a very fast-paced game on Sunday night, and then
they won at Maryland in a hard fought game on Wednesday.


Duke Starting Lineup

Pos.

Name

Ht.

Wt.

Yr.

PPG

RPG

APG

G

Jon Scheyer

6-5

185

Jr.

13.8

3.7

2.9

G

Elliot Williams

6-4

180

Fr.

3.7

1.8

0.5

G

Gerald Henderson

6-4

215

Jr.

16.4

4.8

2.2

F

Lance Thomas

6-8

220

Jr.

5.8

3.5

0.4

F

Kyle Singler

6-8

235

So.

16

7.9

2.6

Elliot Williams has replaced Nolan Smith in the starting lineup for the last
three games. He has played at least 30 minutes in all three contests, and former
starting point guards Smith and Greg Paulus have seen their playing time cut
quite a bit. In fact, Smith probably won’t even play on Saturday thanks to a
concussion suffered against Maryland.

Williams is a McDonald’s All-American who has put up good numbers in his
three games as a starter. He wasn’t seeing much playing time early in the
season, but the Blue Devils were in a slump, and Coach K felt he needed to
change something up. Here is a look at Williams’ numbers over the last three
games.


Elliot Williams, Last Three
Games

Opp.

Points

FGM

FGA

FG%

Assists

TO

St. John’s

11

5

6

83.3%

0

3

Wake Forest

11

5

8

62.5%

1

1

Maryland

15

6

8

75.0%

1

0

Totals/Averages

12.3

16

22

72.7%

2

4

He is a young, energetic player who has given the Blue Devils a spark. However,
Seth Greenberg will have three full games of film to study, and the Hokies
should be better prepared than St. John’s, Wake Forest and Maryland.

With Williams in the starting lineup, Jon Scheyer is Duke’s primary
ball-handler. Scheyer is a very dangerous outside shooter. He is hitting
three-pointers at a 35.5% clip this season. However, neither he nor Elliot
Williams are true point guards. If Nolan Smith misses this game, Greg Paulus
will be the only true point guard available for the Blue Devils.

Gerald
Henderson is having an excellent season. He is averaging 20.1 points per game in
ACC play, which ranks fifth in the league. Henderson is a slasher who can get to
the glass and finish well, and he’s also a competent three-point shooter at
36.8%. He is the most athletic player on the team, and a major argument can be
made that he deserves First Team All-ACC honors. He could also draw the
assignment of guarding Malcolm Delaney or A.D. Vassallo.

The other major threat in Duke’s starting lineup is Kyle Singler. Singler is
a 36.2% three-point shooter who can go inside or outside. He is the toughest
player on the inside for the Devils, averaging 7.9 rebounds per game. Some
consider Singler to be the best player on Duke’s team.

Greg Paulus is the most dangerous offensive threat for Duke off the bench. He
started at point guard for the first three seasons of his career, but is coming
off the bench as a senior. He has very deep range on his three-pointers. Paulus
is also a battler who will give constant effort and who is no stranger to diving
on the court for a loose ball.

David McClure is a wing who is Duke’s defensive stopper off the bench. He
averages 15.9 minutes per game, but he is no offensive threat when he’s in the
game. Brian Zoubek is a seven-footer on the inside, but he averages just 13
minutes per game.

This is a Duke team that will play offense at a fast pace. They have a
penetrator in Gerald Henderson, as well as a number of dangerous outside
shooters. They are a very difficult team to defend offensively, though they have
no true post player on the inside.


Duke vs. VT, ACC Games Only

Category


Duke

VT

Stat

Rank

Stat

Rank

FG%

42.10%

8

44.30%

4

FG% Def.

44.40%

8

43.90%

7

3-Pt.%

33.90%

7

36.10%

5

3-Pt.% Def.

34.50%

4

35.60%

7

FT%

70.10%

8

67.40%

10

Reb. Margin

+0.5

5

-0.8

8

TO Margin

+5

1

+0.69

5

Assist/TO Ratio

1.1

3

0.9

7

Scoring Off.

75 ppg

4

73.9 ppg

6

Scoring Def.

66.9 ppg

1

75.5 ppg

8

Average
 


4.9
 


6.7

The Hokies are shooting the ball better than the Blue Devils this year, but Duke
does have more scoring threats than the Hokies. This game is basically even in
most of the statistics, but Duke has a big advantage in turnover margin. Duke
plays a pressure defense and forces a lot of turnovers, and they do a good job
of protecting the ball themselves.

However, over the past five games, Duke’s defense hasn’t been nearly as good.


Duke Defense, Last 5 Games

Opponent

Points

FGM

FGA

FG%

3PM

3PA

3P%

UNC

101

34

62

54.8%

6

15

4%

at Boston College

80

30

51

58.8%

8

18

44.4%

at St. John’s

69

27

50

54%

2

3

66%

Wake Forest

91

36

59

61%

5

9

55.6%

at Maryland

67

24

50

48%

3

8

37.5%

Average/Total

81.6

151

272

55.5%

24

53

45.3%

Early in the season, Duke was regarded as one of the top defensive teams in the
country. They were easily atop the ACC in field goal percentage defense in
conference games. However, they’ve now slipped to eighth in that category.
They’ve lost part of their identity as the season has progressed. They are still
a very good basketball team, but without that defense, they are very beatable.

The thing that is keeping Duke’s head above water is turnover margin. In
their 10-point victory over Wake Forest, the Blue Devils were an astounding +14
in turnover margin. They turned the ball over just six times. When you maximize
your opportunities like Duke does, it’s much easier to win basketball games. The
Hokies have to take good care of the basketball tomorrow to try and negate one
of Duke’s advantages.

Duke has had their struggles on the road this season. They are just 5-4 in
road venues, losing at Michigan, Wake Forest, Clemson and Boston College. The
Blue Devils haven’t scored more than 74 points in their four road losses, and
they hit a season low 47 points at Clemson. Overall, they don’t play nearly as
well when they are away from Cameron Indoor Stadium.

With Duke on the road for the second straight game, and with this game being
the third game in seven days for the Blue Devils, Virginia Tech has a great
opportunity in front of them.

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