Duke (22-6, 11-4) – Virginia Tech (9-17, 2-12) Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
February 25, 2014
In the first of its two final remaining home games, Duke hosts Virginia Tech Tuesday in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll and No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. The Blue Devils are 20-3 against unranked team this season but dropped their last meeting against a team outside top 25, falling 74-66 at North Carolina on February 20. Duke’s home-court winning streak sits at 31 consecutive victories, tied for the longest active streak in the nation. They are 15-0 at home this season after going 16-0 on Coach K Court in 2012-13. Duke has gone undefeated in Cameron Indoor Stadium in 17 seasons, including three of the past four years.
The Virginia Tech Hokies remain a team attempting to find its way. They do have talent but have been stricken with injuries all season. They currently are in last place in the ACC and have had no ‘quality’ wins this year in or out of conference. They rank near the bottom of the conference in most statistical categories with the exception of total rebounds and defensive rebounds per game (2nd), and 3-pt field goal percentage (3rd). The Hokies return to Cassell Coliseum on Saturday, March 1 to host No. 19 North Carolina on Senior Day.
Team Seasons Thus Far
Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech got 14 points each from Jarell Eddie and Devin Wilson, but the Hokies could not overcome T.J. Warren’s 31 points in falling to NC State 71-64 in an ACC game played last Saturday afternoon, February 22 at Cassell Coliseum. Tech shot better from the floor than NC State, hitting 42.9 percent (18 of 42) compared to 40.6 percent (26 of 64) for the Wolfpack. The Hokies also out-rebounded NC State (39-31), but they missed 15 free throws and turned the ball over 17 times. NC State led 61-46 after two free throws by Ralston Turner with 7:21 left in the game. However, the undermanned Hokies, without starting guard Ben Emelogu and reserve center Cadarian Raines, both nursing ankle injuries, scrambled back into the game late, using a 17-6 run to cut the lead to 67-63 on two Wilson free throws with 36 seconds remaining. Tyler Lewis pushed the lead to 68-63 for the Wolfpack after he made the first of two free-throw attempts with 34 seconds to go, and after Virginia Tech’s C.J. Barksdale missed an open 3-pointer, Lewis made 1 of 2 again from the free-throw line with 22 seconds left to give the Wolfpack a 69-63 lead. Lewis’ two free throws with 12.8 seconds left iced the game for NC State. As has been the theme all season, Tech again played shorthanded. Emelogu, Raines, and Adam Smith (stress fracture) sat at the end of the bench. Only Raines dressed out for the game.
Virginia Tech is a deep team. Given the current injury situation, they typically start two freshmen, forward Trevor Thompson (4.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG), and guard Devin Wilson (9.4 PPG, 4.7 APG). Rounding out the starting five are sophomore forward Joey van Zegeren (5.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG), senior forward Jarell Eddie (13.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG), and junior guard Will Johnston, Jr. (3.2 PPG, 1.0 APG). Wilson set a new Virginia Tech freshman record in the loss to Virginia. He now has 123 assists this season, the most ever for a Tech freshman, breaking the old mark of 113, set by Hank Thorns in the 2007-08 season. Eddie currently has 1,106 points at Virginia Tech and is 38th in career scoring for the Hokies. Sophomore guard Adam Smith (left calf strain) is out and freshman guard Ben Emelogu (left ankle), and senior forward Cadarian Raines (left ankle) are questionable for Duke game.
Duke Blue Devils
The rematch of one of college basketball’s best games of the season ended with Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim ejected after he charged onto the court to argue a charge call. Redshirt sophomore forward Rodney Hood scored 13 points and drew that game-changing charging call that helped No. 5 Duke beat then No. 1 Syracuse 66-60 last Saturday night, February 22. Freshman forward Freshman Jabari Parker had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Blue Devils. Jerami Grant had 17 points and C.J. Fair, the player who was called for the charge, finished with 13 for the Orange. “I just thought that was the worst call of the year, that’s all,” Boeheim said. “I hated to see the game decided on that call.” The first meeting between these teams was an overtime game considered an instant classic. The rematch was just as close but it will be remembered more for Boeheim’s exit with 10 seconds to play. Syracuse had the ball down 60-58 when Fair drove for an apparent tying layup. Sophomore guard Quinn Cook iced it by hitting three free throws with 10.4 seconds left to make it 63-58. That helped the Blue Devils bounce back from a loss to hated rival North Carolina less than 48 hours earlier. It meant they avoided their first regular-season losing streak since 2009 and it extended their winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium to 31 games.
Duke has won 31 consecutive games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, tied for the longest active home win streak in the country. Included in that streak is a 66-60 win over top-ranked Syracuse this past Tuesday as well as eight wins by 20 points or more. The Blue Devils have held 11 straight home opponents to less than 70 points. Opposing teams average just 65.5 points per game on Duke’s home court, good for a +18.4 Duke scoring margin. Duke owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.55:1, which would rank as the highest ratio since Duke began tracking turnovers in the 1970-71 season. The Blue Devils logged a school-record 1.51:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, bettering the previous school record of 1.32 set in 2000-01. Opposing teams are shooting just .304 (110-of-362) from the three-point line against Duke with an average of 4.0 made three-pointers per game. Duke has surrendered the fifth-fewest made three-pointers in the nation. Freshman forward Jabari Parker has a double-double in seven of his past 10 games and is averaging 19.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game during that stretch. Parker owns an ACC-leading 11 double-doubles this season and ranks among the league’s top three in scoring (2nd – 19.1 PPG), rebounding (1st – 8.8 RPG) and field goal percentage (3rd, .485 – 189-of-390). Fifth year senior guard Andre Dawkins (8.7 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.4 APG) needs just 13 points to become the 63rd Duke player to join the 1,000-point club. Dawkins is averaging a career-best 8.7 points per game this season. Sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon has scored in double figures in nine of 14 ACC games and averages 10.5 points and 3.1 assists per game in conference play. He leads Duke with 37 assists over his past 10 games and owns a 2.31:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span. Senior guard Tyler Thornton has logged 26 assists and just four turnovers in his past 10 games, good for a 6.5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span. Thornton has not committed more than one turnover in any of Duke’s 15 ACC games this season and has posted turnover-free performances eight times in conference play. Rodney Hood is averaging 16.1 points per game in his first season at Duke, which would be the highest scoring average by a transfer under Coach K in his first season, bettering the previous averages of Seth Curry (9.0 PPG, 2010-11), Roshown McLeod (11.9 PPG, 1996-97) and Dahntay Jones (11.2 PPG, 2001-02).
The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 42-8. Duke has won the last six meetings, most recently an 85-57 win last March in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tech is 1-19 in road games in the series. The Hokies are 3-13 against the Blue Devils since joining the ACC and 3-11 in ACC regular season games. Tech is 5-24 against Duke in all conference games, including Southern Conference games. Along with Blacksburg and Durham, the two teams have met in Roanoke, Wytheville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh.
In terms of a few select overall season statistical parameters thus far, Duke leads convincingly in all categories except RPG, which gives the Blue Devils a significant edge head-to-head.
Four Factors to Winning
As might be expected, Duke has an edge in each of the four factors when matched against Virginia Tech. The factors break down as follows: shooting (eFG%) at 54.8 vs. 47.8, ball handling (TO%) at 14.3 vs. 19.6, offensive rebounding (OR%) 33.5 vs. 32.8, and shooting free throws (FT Rate) at 40.9% vs. 39.6.
Key Points to Consider
As fans, it may be somewhat hard to be hyped up about playing the last place team in the League…but as studiers of Duke and its trends, we are also very aware that a team like Virginia Tech is dangerous. Playing for nothing but pride can raise a team’s game, and playing against a top ten school can raise it even more. Even with a 2-game losing streak VA Tech has not given up, they are showing signs of life. They beat a half-decent Miami squad and only lost to UVA by 4 points before losing by 7 to NC State who is currently 7-7 in league play.
Being a team in last place, their stats obviously reflect this. Interestingly enough, Duke only holds a slight edge in free throw rate and offensive rebounding. These will be stats to watch for in the game. In addition, Duke will try to get points off of its defense against this team as it averages roughly 13 a game. Duke just needs to take care of business but not lose its edge; when that happens, you have a game like the one at UNC. We expect Duke to win the battle on the boards as well as second chance and points off of turnovers in this match-up.
Duke should win this game with everything on its side, home crowd, playing good basketball, finally some rest, and everyone being healthy. They have to guard against playing down to the level of their opponents. That is not to say that Virginia Tech is not a good team, they just did not put it together this year. They haves pieces and Duke on occasion allows pieces, especially against teams that are record-wise not as good, get the best of them. It’s an important game in that Duke needs to build up a good head of steam to end the season and going into this last stretch of games before the ACC Tournament they need to win and win pretty. Duke wins by 15, and Jabari gets 25 points, Quinn Cook 12, Rodney Hood 17.