Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs Virginia Cavaliers w/ Notes on the Pack Line Defense

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Duke (18-2, 6-2)


Virginia (19-1, 8-0)

When: Jan. 26| 2:00 PM (ET)
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium - Durham, NC

Watch Live: CBS

In a battle of ACC heavyweights the number 2 ranked University of Virginia Cavaliers take on the # 4 ranked Duke Blue Devis at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Cavaliers bring an undefeated ACC record to Durham and the topped ranked defense in college basketball. Tony Bennett may have his best defensive team ever and they still have yet to give up more than 67 points in a game, conversely Duke has yet to have a game where they score under 78. It's easy to peg UVA as just a defensive juggernaut but that does a complete disservice to what they bring on the offensive end of he floor; boasting 3 guards that are shooting over 42% from beyond the arc in Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall. UVA does not struggle putting the ball in the basket but their style of play dictates lesser opportunities to do so - they are last in tempo but they are 3rd in the nation and tops in the ACC at taking care of the basketball. UVA average around 69 points per game but are shooting, as a team, just under 40% from 3 point range and 47% overall.

UVA is led offensively by a trio of guards. Sophomore Kyle Guy leads the way offensively with 15.2 points per game, Guy shots 42% from beyond the arc in 30.6 minutes per game. Devon Hall is a 6'5 guard who averages 12.7 points a game and 3.2 assists and Ty Jerome checks in at 9 points and 3.2 assists a game as well. The Virginia front- court consists of senior Isaiah Wilkins who pulls down 6.8 rebounds a game and Jack Salt the 6'10 New Zealander who averages just under 4 boards per game. UVA has 8 players who average 15 minutes or more per game.

Duke is led by freshman sensation Marvin Bagley III, who leads Duke and the ACC in points and rebounds at 21.6 and 11.5 a game. Bagley's frontcout companion, Wendell Carter Jr. is averaging 14.4 and 9.2 rebounds per game. The backcourt is handled by a high scoring triumvirate of Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr. Allen leads the guard in scoring 15.2 points and 4.4 assists a game, Duval leads the team in assists per game at 6 per game and Trent Jr. comes in at 14.7 and 4 boards. Trent in particular has been playing more aggressively on offense in the last 4 games where he is averaging 23 points including a 30 point barrage against Miami in Coral Gables.

Conventional wisdom and billing is pitting Duke's high powered offense against Virginia's stout and constrictive defense but this could be a big test for Duke's defense. UVA has an excellent squad of guards and defending the perimeter and also dribble penetration has been an area of weakness for Duke. It's true they have made strides in recent weeks but to say they are anywhere near an excellent defensive team is not just not an honest portrayal of where they are. Duke will have a very tough time turning the Cavaliers over, but if Duke can speed up the Cavaliers and by default award themselves more possessions they significantly increase their chances of winning. Duke will have to adjust quickly to UVA's defensive pressure and unlike early in the Miami game, Duke will need to be strong with the ball. Finishing through contact will be a huge area for Duke to emphasize as well as being efficient with their possessions as a whole.

Defensively, keeping the UVA guards from getting hot will be paramount, Guy and Jerome are snipers in the backcourt and are underrated in terms of how fast they are with their first step. Rebounded, generally, isn't an issue for the Blue Devils but UVA's Jack Salt and senior Isaiah Wilkins, while they don't have huge rebounding numbers, are very adept at boxing out. Duke will need to be aware and lay a body on the UVA front-court players.

Projected Starting Lineups:


F Marvin Bagley III
F Wendell Carter Jr.
G Gary Trent Jr.
G Grayson Allen
G Trevon Duval



C Jack Salt
PF Isaiah Wilkins
G Devon Hall
G Ty Jerome
G Kyle Guy

  • For the 15th time in the history of Cameron Indoor Stadium, a pair of top 5 teams will square off as fourth-ranked Duke hosts second-ranked Virginia Saturday on CBS. Duke owns an 11-3 record in those games (9-2 under Coach K).

  • The Blue Devils have won their last seven versus top 25 opponents (4-0 this season). Coach K is 221-142 vs. ranked teams at Duke – 28-14 with both teams ranked in the top 5.

  • Duke brings the nation’s highest scoring offense (91.7 ppg) into Saturday’s game, having scored 78+ points in every game this season and 80+ in 16 straight.

  • Marvin Bagley III leads the ACC in scoring (21.6) and rebounding (11.5) and is second in the NCAA in double-doubles (16). Trevon Duval leads the ACC in assists (6.0), while Grayson Allen is third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.59) and Gary Trent, Jr. is fourth in the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (.431).

  • Virginia is 19-1 overall and in first place in the ACC with a perfect 8-0 conference mark. The Cavaliers’ 11-game winning streak is currently the third-longest in Division I.

  • Virginia ranks first nationally in scoring defense (51.6 ppg), second in field goal percentage defense (36.4%), fourth in turnovers per game (9.5) and seventh in scoring margin (17.6).

  • Kyle Guy is the Cavaliers’ leading scorer, averaging 15.2 ppg. He has three 20-point games this year and is on a 20-game streak with at least one three-pointer.

  • Duke is 119-50 all-time versus Virginia, which includes a 57-10 mark in home games. The Blue Devils have won three straight in the series, including a 65-55 victory in Charlottesville lasts season. Jayson Tatum led the Blue Devils with 28 points in the win.
Duke FG Percentage
Virginia FG Percentage
Duke 3pt Percentage
Virginia 3pt Percentage
Duke FT Percentage
Virginia FT Percentage
Duke Scoring Average
Virginia Scoring Average

Advantages of Pack Line Defense

1. Prevents Dribble Penetration – Due to four defenders always being inside the pack line, the offensive players will be find it hard to find gaps through the wall of defenders.

2. Prevents Back-Door Cuts – This is a great defense if you’re playing against an offense like the Princeton offense that likes to utilize the back-door cut. Since your players are sagging off their man, the offensive team will find it hard to get easy layups off back-door cuts.

3. Lower Opponent Field Goal Percentage – If your team can be patient on defense and not gamble, it will lead to the opponent taking tough contested jump shots.

4. Increased Rebounding – Sagging off their players will put your players in better rebounding positions… as long as they box out.

5. No Easy Scores – This advantage ties in with dribble penetration. If the opponent can’t get to the ring and your defense is packing the paint, there will be no easy opportunities to score.

6. Always in Help Position – Unlike traditional man-to-man defense, your players don’t need to move to be in help position… they’re already there!

Weaknesses of Pack Line Defense

1. Three Pointers Can Beat You – As your players are playing off their player and are in help position, it can lead to open three-pointers if your players don’t react quick enough and close out on the ball. If a team gets hot from three

2. If There’s No Shot Clock – If you coach in a league that doesn’t use a shot clock then the opposition can use as much time as they like passing the ball around the perimeter until they find an open shot. It will come down to who is more patient, the offense or defense.

3. Must Be Patient – One problem that arises when using this defense at a youth level is the players sometimes aren’t patient enough. They want to gamble and get a steal so they can stop playing defense and start playing offense.

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