Date: Wednesday, February 25
Virginia Tech will host #4 Duke tonight in Cassell Coliseum in the first and only meeting of the season between the two teams.
The Blue Devils are 24-3 overall and 11-3 in conference play. Duke began the season 5-3 in the ACC, but have run off six consecutive wins. They have road victories over UVA, Louisville, and Wisconsin. This is one of the best teams in the country, and a likely #1 seen in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Here’s a look at Duke’s starting lineup…
G Tyus Jones (6-1, 190, Fr.): 11.7 ppg, 150 assists, 38 steals. Jones is playing at a very high level as a true freshman. He is a 40% three-point shooter, and he is projected as a late first round pick in the NBA Draft.
G Quinn Cook (6-2, 185, Sr.): 15.5 ppg, 77 assists. Cook is the cagey veteran of this Duke team. He has been through the battles, and he is playing at a high level right now. Cook shoots 40.7% from the outside.
G Justice Winslow (6-6, 225, Fr.): 11.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 27 steals. Winslow is another freshman who is playing great basketball. He’s a 38.3% three-point shooter, and he’s very good close to the basket. He is projected as a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft.
F Amile Jefferson (6-9, 215, Jr.): 7.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg. Jefferson is Duke’s only starter who doesn’t average double figures. However, he is shooting at a 63.1% clip.
C Jahlil Okafor (6-11, 270, Fr.): 17.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 38 blocks. The freshman phenom leads Duke in points, rebounds and blocked shots. There’s a strong chance that he will be the #1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. He is an extremely tough matchup.
Okafor missed the Clemson game with a sprained ankle over the weekend, and there’s a chance that he won’t play tonight. Still, Duke managed to beat Clemson by 22, therefore they should still have a big advantage against Virginia Tech.
The Blue Devils have a bench of exactly three players: Matt Jones (6-5, 210, So.), Marshall Plumlee (7-0, 255, Jr.) and Grayson Allen (6-4, 195, Fr.). Those three guys combine for a total of just over 35 minutes per game, so Duke doesn’t exactly have a deep bench.
Overall, Duke has eight scholarship players (including four freshmen and a sophomore) and only one senior on the entire roster. Despite their depth issues and their youth, the Blue Devils have actually gotten better since the dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon following a loss to Notre Dame on January 28. A little over a week after that dismissal, Duke beat that same Notre Dame team by 30, and they are 6-0 since Sulaimon’s ouster.
In short, this is one of Coach K’s best coaching jobs in a career of masterful coaching jobs. Obviously it helps to have three first round picks on the roster, but their turnaround since late January has been very impressive. This was a team that lost three out of six games from January 11 through January 28. Now they have a strong shot to earn a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The advanced stats tell a sad tale for the Hokies:
Offensive efficiency: VT #204, Duke #3
Defensive efficiency: VT #239, Duke #81
Rebounding rate: VT #343, Duke #20
Turnovers per possession: VT #145, Duke #41
Opp. Turnovers per possession: VT #134, Duke #226
The Hokies turn their opponents over at a higher rate than Duke, which is somewhat surprising. However, the rest of those numbers are heavily in favor of the Blue Devils, especially offensive efficiency and rebounding. This is not a good matchup for Tech, but then again, there are precious few good matchups for VT this season.