2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at #6 Duke

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(home games)
  • Date: Sunday, February 21, 2010
  • Time: 7:45pm
  • TV: FSN



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The Hokies will face their toughest challenge of the season on Sunday night
when they journey to Cameron Indoor Stadium to battle #6 Duke. These two teams
have been the hottest teams in the league recently, combining to win their last
12 conference games. Duke is currently #1 in the ACC standings, while Virginia
Tech is #2. This is a big game that a lot of people will be watching.

Duke is 21-4 overall with a 10-2 record in the ACC. They’ve lost to
Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, NC State and Georgetown, all on the road.

Duke hasn’t had a great season on the road, but they have been impossible to
beat at home thus far. The Blue Devils are 14-0 in Cameron. They have been
blowing teams out regularly. They have outscored six ACC opponents by a total of
117 points at home. Their closest home conference game has been a 70-56 victory
over Florida State.

Those are some long odds for a Virginia Tech team that has won five game in a
row and which needs two more wins to feel safe about their chances of making the
NCAA tournament. Nevertheless, the Hokie have won in Cameron once before in the
Seth Greenberg era, and you can count on them to bring their best effort with
first place in the ACC on the line.

Duke Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
G John Scheyer 6-5 190 Sr. 19.1 3.4
G Nolan Smith 6-2 185 Jr. 17.7 2.8
F Kyle Singler 6-8 230 Jr. 16.6 7.2
F Lance Thomas 6-8 225 Sr. 5.6 4.8
C Brian Zoubek 7-1 260 Sr. 5.5 6.5

The Blue Devils have the highest scoring trio of players in the country. Jon
Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are outstanding. They are on the court
virtually all the time for Duke, with each averaging over 35 minutes per game.

Scheyer is an intelligent scoring point guard and probably the most complete
college basketball player on the team. Besides averaging a lot of points,
Scheyer does all the little things well. He’s a great three-point shooter,
knocking down 40.6% of his outside jumpers this season.

Scheyer also leads the team in assists (140) and steals (42). He protects the
basketball, with only 46 turnovers on the season. He does a great job of running
that team.

Kyle Singler is the best NBA prospect on the team. A tall wing with a deep
range, Singler can beat opponents inside and outside. He’s shooting 39% from
three-point range, which is nearly equal to his overall field goal percentage of
40.4 percent.

Singler is also a good rebounder and a very good passer. He averages 2.5
assists per game, and he’s a big part of Duke being the best passing team in the
ACC. Year after year, the Blue Devils have the best ball movement of any team in
the conference. That’s a credit to Coach K.


Nolan Smith is the third member of the trio. Like the others, he’s a good
three-point shooter, hitting 41.9% of his outside shots. He doesn’t shoot from
the outside as much as Singler and Scheyer, but he has more overall field goals.
He can put it on the floor and score around the basket, and he has a good
midrange game. Along with Virginia Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson, Smith is perhaps the
most improved player in the ACC.

Duke’s game relies heavily on good ball movement and shooting the
three-pointer. In ACC games this season, the Blue Devils are averaging 6.5 made
three-pointers per game, which ranks first in the ACC. Besides Scheyer, Singler
and Smith, Duke also brings Virginia native Andre Dawkins (6-4, 190, Fr.) off
the bench to knock down threes. Dawkins is shooting 39.7% from the outside.

Coach K preaches toughness more than anything, and the Blue Devils have
plenty of good role players who play defense, get offensive rebounds and come up
with 50-50 balls. The Plumlee brothers, Miles (6-10, 240, So.) and Mason (6-10,
230, Fr.) are the perfect example of this right now. They are both going to be
good players down the line, but right now they are content in their roles of
hustling, playing defense and getting garbage points off offensive rebounds.

Lance Thomas is a key contributor as well. He’s never been a huge factor from
a numbers standpoint, but he obviously does the little things well, given that
he has started 87 out of 126 career games at Duke.

Brian Zoubek has started the last two games for Duke and played very well. In
his latest start against Miami, Zoubek had 10 points and five rebounds. In the
previous game against Maryland, his first start of the season, he dominated the
undersized Terps with 16 points and 17 rebounds in just 22 minutes. He has the
potential to have a big game against a shorter Virginia Tech front line.

Stats Comparison, ACC Games Only

 

Duke VT
Category Stat Rank Stat Rank
Scoring Off. 74 2 71 4
Scoring Def. 63.2 1 67.4 6
FG% 42.80% 6 40.90% 8
FG% Def. 42.50% 7 41.40% 5
3Pt.% 36.10% 3 29.80% 8
3Pt.% Def. 25% 2 26.60% 3
FT% 73.50% 3 74.80% 2
Reb. Margin +4 1 -2.1 10
TO Margin +3.17 2 +3.55 1
Assist/TO Ratio 1.0 3 0.9 6
Average

 

3

 

5.3

As you can see, Duke is good at just about everything, as usual. It will take a
supreme effort from the Hokies to pull off this upset on the road, and even with
great effort they’ll probably have to depend on a bad shooting night from the
outside by the Blue Devils.

Duke is outstanding in limiting and forcing turnovers, and while Tech is
still #1 in that category, the Hokies have actually lost the turnover battle in
their last three games. That will have to end on Sunday night. Tech won’t be
able to go into Cameron and give Duke extra possessions and hope to win the
game.

In Tech’s only win in Cameron, a 69-67 victory back in 2007, the Hokies
committed just seven turnovers while forcing 22. A repeat of that performance is
going to be a tall order, as Duke is much stronger with the ball now than they
were during the 2006-07 season.

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Tech has to limit Duke’s big runs. Duke’s big runs are bigger than that of
most teams because of their three-point shooting ability. While one team might
go on an 8-0 run, Duke’s run will be 14 or 15 points because they rely on the
outside jumper so much. The Hokies must limit Duke’s open looks from the
outside. Once the Blue Devils string together a few back-to-back three-pointers,
it’s usually game over for their opponents in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Virginia Tech is capable of winning this one, but they’ll have to play their
best game of the season and hope for timely misses by Duke. The Hokies can’t let
Duke get off to a big lead. Tech has been able to rally from deficits this
season, but doing so in Durham is an entirely different challenge.

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