2010-11 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. #1 Duke

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(home games)
  • Date: Saturday, February 26, 2011
  • Time: 9 pm
  • TV: ESPN

Virginia Tech will welcome #1 Duke to town on Saturday night in a huge game
for the Hokies’ NCAA Tournament hopes. ESPN College GameDay will be
making their first appearance in Blacksburg, and a national television audience
will watch Tech try to upset the Blue Devils.

At 26-2 overall and 12-1 in conference play, Duke is the class of the ACC.
They are the defending National Champions, and the only two teams who have been
able to beat them were Florida State and St. John’s. The Blue Devils are
fighting for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

As usual, Duke is very talented and very well-coached. They have been deeper
in the past, but they have a very big frontcourt and guards who can score.

Duke
Starting Lineup
Pos. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. PPG RPG
G Nolan Smith 6-2 185 Sr. 21.4 4.9
G Seth Curry 6-2 180 So. 9.0 1.9
F Kyle Singler 6-8 230 Sr. 17.2 6.3
F Ryan Kelly 6-11 235 So. 6.8 4.0
F Mason Plumlee 6-10 230 So. 7.2 8.8

Nolan Smith is Duke’s top all-around player, and will likely be this year’s ACC
Player of the Year. In fact, he should be a major contender for National Player
of the Year. Smith does everything well. He scores, he rebounds, he distributes
and he defends. If he keeps his current pace, he will become the first player in
ACC history to lead the league in scoring and assists in the same season.

Smith gets to the basket, and finishes well. He has a good outside jumper,
connecting on 38.3% of his three-point attempts, and he’s also an 82.5% shooter
from the free throw line. Smith averages 4.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game,
and he’s the undisputed leader of Duke’s team.

Not far behind him is Kyle Singler, an excellent wing player with very good
range. Singler can put the ball on the floor, but he has excellent range for a
player his size. He’s a 35.5% three-point shooter, but when he gets hot he can
connect at a much higher percentage. Singler is a tough matchup, and we can
expect to see Terrell Bell draw that defensive assignment when Tech is in
man-to-man. Last year Singler lit up the Hokies for 25 points and 10 rebounds.

Seth Curry, son of Virginia Tech great Dell Curry, recently broke into the
starting lineup for the Blue Devils. He is averaging nine points per game and
has proven to be one of Duke’s best outside shooters, connecting on 42.7% of his
three-point attempts. Curry entered the starting lineup after coming off the
bench to score 22 points against UNC. He scored 16 points in the next game
against Miami, but has failed to score in double figures since.

Curry has improved as the season has progressed, and he leads Duke in steals,
averaging 1.5 per game. He has improved his handle, and though most of his
offensive game is jump shooting, he has the ability to score in other ways as
well.

Tyler Thornton (6-1, 185, Fr.) and Andre Dawkins (6-4, 205, So.) come off the
bench to play in the backcourt. Dawkins is the best scorer off the bench,
averaging 8.6 points per game. He is shooting 43.2% from three-point range, but
for the most part that’s all he is as a basketball player at this point in his
career: an outside shooter. He hasn’t developed the all-around game yet, but
that will come next year when he’ll likely move into the starting lineup.

Duke has a very big frontcourt with a lot of length. Mason Plumlee is an
athletic player who leads Duke in rebounding and finishes well underneath. Ryan
Kelly also has excellent size, and he also has good range. He is 19-of-51
(37.3%) from three-point range this season.

The Blue Devils will also use Miles Plumlee (6-10, 245, Jr.) and Josh
Hairston (6-7, 210, Fr.). Hairston is a freshman who would probably have ended
up at Virginia Tech had Duke not come in with a late offer. He is from
Fredericksburg, and he has appeared in 22 games this season. Miles Plumlee isn’t
as good as his younger brother, but he is a productive player off the bench who
is capable of playing a lot of minutes.

Duke is a team that will live and die by the three-pointer. In their two
losses this year, the Blue Devils have been terrible from the outside. Against
Florida State, 35 of their 61 shot attempts came from the outside, and they made
just 11 of them. On January 30 against St. John’s, Duke was just 5-of-26 (19.2%)
from three-point range, including a 1-of-19 start. Four of their five makes came
very late in the game when the outcome was already decided.

Stats
Comparison, ACC Games Only

Category
Duke Virginia
Tech
Stat Rank Stat Rank
FG% 44.9% 3 46.1% 1
FG% Def. 39% 2 42.5% 5
3Pt.% 35.3% 5 38.2% 2
3Pt.% Def. 29.6% 1 31.8% 3
FT% 73.3% 4 75.1% 1
Reb. Margin +4.0 2 +2.9 3
TO Margin +1.77 3 +0.69 5
Assist-TO 1.1 5 1.0 7
Scoring Off. 76.3 1 72.2 4
Scoring Def. 62.2 1 65.5 5

Average
2.7 3.6

As the numbers indicate, Duke is very good at everything. They shoot, they
rebound, they defend, and they win the turnover battle. Besides being talented
and well-coach, the Blue Devils also play extremely hard, and compete harder on
a more consistent basis than any other team in the league.

The numbers also show that Virginia Tech has also been one of the best teams
in the ACC this year, minus a couple of poor efforts against Virginia. The
Hokies have been one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league
this year. They rank 41st nationally in offensive efficiency, and 32nd in
defensive efficiency. As a comparison, Duke is 5th offensively, and 3rd
defensively.

This will be Virginia Tech’s eighth meeting against a team ranked #1 in the
country, dating back to the 1983 victory over Memphis State. The Hokies are 3-4
against #1 teams in those previous seven meetings, also knocking off #1 UNC in
2007 and #1 Wake Forest in 2009. Of their four losses against the #1 ranked
team, one has come by one point, one has come by two points, and another has
come by three points. Historically, the Hokies play the top ranked team very
close.

To beat Duke, you have to match their intensity, and hope they have a bad
shooting night. With GameDay in town, and Malcolm Delaney calling this
“the biggest game of my career”, the Hokies shouldn’t have any trouble
with their intensity level. They’ll have to play good, alert defense, and depend
on the Blue Devils having a bad shooting night to pull off the upset.

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