Hokies Head to Cameron

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The Hokies head to Durham on Saturday to take on #4 Duke in a rematch from earlier this season.  The Blue Devils won that first meeting 75-60, and they are coming off a 74-66 win at #16 Florida State on Thursday night.

Virginia Tech is coming off a heartbreaking 61-59 loss to in-state rival Virginia.  The Hokies led for most of the game, then went on a huge scoring drought to close the game.  It’s the type of game that is very difficult to recover from emotionally, but on the bright side Duke played a Thursday night game on the road and then had to travel back to Durham.  They might not have 100% in the tank.

Yet again, the Blue Devils are one of the top college basketball teams in the country.  They are making a strong argument for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Take a look at Duke’s quality wins this year.

  • #3 Michigan State on a neutral court
  • #10 Michigan on a neutral court
  • #6 Kansas on a neutral court
  • #24 Colorado State at home
  • #37 Virginia at home
  • #5 UNC on the road
  • #20 Florida State on the road

Duke is currently #2 in the RPI, and their strength of schedule ranks #3 nationally.  All of those numbers are per StatSheet.com.

The Blue Devils have also had their share of troubles.  They have struggled defensively at times, particularly with their guards, and Coach K has shuffled his starting lineup around as a result.  He has started nine different players this season.

Here’s a decent guess as to what the starting lineup will look like tomorrow

Virginia Tech's Scholarship Cornerbacks
Kyle Fuller6-0187Jr.
Detrick Bonner6-0189r-So.
Kyshoen Jarrett5-10193So.
Donaldven Manning5-9155Fr.
Davion Tookes5-11165Fr.

Duke isn’t particularly big in the backcourt, but they are very big in the frontcourt.  Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee tower over anyone the Hokies can put in the game, and Miles Plumlee (6-10, 245, Sr.) is available off the bench as well.

Not only do the Blue Devils have plenty of size on the inside, they’ve got plenty of talent across the board.  Ryan Kelly is a 6-11 power forward who shoots 41.2% from three-point range this season.  Both Plumlees are physically tough, and they’ve combined for 159 offensive rebounds on the year.  Unfortunately for the Hokies, Victor Davila’s status is uncertain.  Davila had 16 points and seven rebounds in the first meeting with Duke.  If he’s out again, the Blue Devils will have an even bigger advantage in the paint.

Duke is a terrific three-point shooting team, with four players who make major contributions from the outside.

  • Austin Rivers: 40.5%
  • Seth Curry: 39.4%
  • Ryan Kelly: 41.2%
  • Andre Dawkins: 42.2%

Dawkins (6-4, 200, Jr.) is Duke’s best pure shooter.  He has made 65 three-points this year, and he’s started 14 of Duke’s 28 games.  However, issues on the defensive end of the court have kept Dawkins out of the starting lineup recently.  He averages 9.9 points per game, but he is purely an outside shooter.  65 of his 89 field goals have come outside the three point line, and he doesn’t contribute much in other areas (just 19 assists and 14 steals).

Rivers is Duke’s best player as a freshman.  The son of former NBA player Doc Rivers, he is leading the Blue Devils in scoring.  Rivers is a great outside shooter, but he also has a good overall offensive game.  He had 18 points and five assists in the first meeting with the Hokies, and he was 7-of-11 from the field.  When Rivers, Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly are in the game at the same time, the Blue Devils have arguably the best three-point shooting lineup in the country.

You’ll never mistake Tyler Thornton for a scorer.  He’s scored only 96 points the entire season.  However, he does a good job of running the show for the Blue Devils, and with his two-to-one assist to turnover ratio (55 assists, 27 turnovers), Coach K trusts him on the court.  He averages just over 19 minutes per game.

Duke isn’t the most talented team in the country, but they are talented enough that when combined with the best coach in college basketball, they are going to be very dangerous.  Coach K would prefer his team to be better defensively this year, but this is still a team that is fighting for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Obviously this matchup doesn’t favor the Hokies.  Virginia Tech plays four freshmen, while Duke plays just two.  The Blue Devils have much more size, experience and skill on the inside, more three-point shooters on the roster, a great homecourt advantage and Mike Krzyzewski on the bench.

If Duke has a little bit of jet lag from their Thursday night flight from Tallahassee, then Virginia Tech will have an opportunity to stay in the game.  Even then, it’s tough to see the Hokies being able to generate enough points to have a chance to win the game.

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