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Virginia Tech (11-7, 2-2 ACC) vs #3 Duke (15-1, 3-0 ACC)

Thursday, January 24, 2008, 7:00

TV: ESPN HD

Special Preview Items:

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Game Preview: Virginia Tech has quite a challenge ahead of them on Thursday night. They have to face #3 Duke in Cassell Coliseum, and they must do so without Jeff Allen, arguably the best player on the team and one of the top freshmen in the ACC. It was going to be a very tough game with Allen, and without him it will be difficult at best.

Duke is arguably the face of NCAA basketball. When you think of college basketball, you think of Coach K and Duke. They have great success every year, and they are the model for competitiveness, effort, and playing hard. The Hokies better be ready on Thursday, because the Blue Devils will bring it to them like no one else has this season.

Duke Probable Starting Lineup
Pos Player Ht Wt Year PPG RPG Assists
G Greg Paulus 6-1 185 Jr. 9.1 1.9 56
G DeMarcus Nelson 6-4 200 Sr. 14.3 6 46
G Gerald Henderson 6-4 210 So. 13.1 4.8 29
F David McClure 6-6 200 Jr. 1 2.1 4
F Kyle Singler 6-8 220 Fr. 13.1 5.9 22


Ignore those starters for now. Let's talk about Duke's bench first. It is deeper and more deadly than last year, partly because of some talented freshmen, and partly because sophomore guard Jon Scheyer, who started as a freshman last season, is coming off the bench this year.

Scheyer has accepted his new role and developed into arguably the best sixth man in the ACC. He's an excellent outside shooter (more on Duke's outside shooting in a bit) and he's averaging 11.4 points per game on the season. The Blue Devils donít have one superstar player, but they have a number of very solid scorers who can blow up on any given night. Scheyer is one of those guys.

Taylor King is another guy who can come off the bench and score. A 6-6, 230 forward, King is another very good outside shooter that the Hokies must account for when he's in the game.

Now, let's get to those Duke starters. The Blue Devils start four perimeter players. They like to extend on defense and control the pace of the game. They force opposing teams to extend on defense because of their outstanding three-point shooting, and guys like DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson are very effective at cutting and exploiting an extended defense on the inside.

The Hokies will have to go with a small lineup to have a chance in this game. Check out how proficient Duke has been from three-point range this year.

Duke's 3-Pt. Shooters
Player 3-Pt. Made 3-Pt. Att. 3-Pt. %
DeMarcus Nelson 21 48 43.8%
Jon Scheyer 24 59 40.7%
Taylor King 34 78 43.6%
Greg Paulus 29 71 40.8%
Kyle Singler 19 53 35.8%


Those are Duke's top five three-point shooters, and it's possible that they could all be on the court at the same time on Thursday night. The Hokies are going to have to go with a smaller lineup to compete with that. I would expect the playing time of guys like Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell to increase during this game.

Nelson is Duke's only senior, and although he isn't particularly flashy, he is one of the top guards in the ACC. He isn't great at anything, but he is solid across the board. He has an inside and outside game, though he doesn't shoot free throws particularly well (62.3%). Nelson is also a very good defender and a tough rebounder for his size.

Nelson, Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler like to score inside. Singler is a small forward with post up skills. He's a tough matchup for Tech. Henderson is one of the few Duke players that isn't a great three-point shooter. However, he's good cutting to the basket, and he's a very proficient scorer inside.

Greg Paulus and Taylor King are predominantly outside players. 29 of Paulus' 45 field goals have come from three-point range, while 34 of King's 50 makes have been from the outside.

Although Duke is averaging 85 points per game and are very balanced offensively across the board, their defensive intensity is what separates them from other teams. They are a talented team, but not quite at the level of UNC, Memphis or Kansas, but their defensive focus and intensity allows them to compete with and beat anyone in the nation.

The Blue Devils like to extend and pressure the basketball. In the past, Tech has had good success against Duke for two reasons. First, Seth Greenberg understands that you can't get cute offensively against Duke. You have to make basketball plays. Running a set offense doesn't work very well. Ask Herb Sendek. You have to spread the court and drive.

Secondly, the Hokies had the guards to execute Greenberg's plan with perfect precision. The Blue Devils never handled Jamon Gordon or Zabian Dowdell very well, and Carlos Dixon gave Duke a lot of trouble in Tech's victory in 2005 as well.

This year, it's going to be a lot tougher. The Hokies had an advantage on the inside with Jeff Allen. Nobody from Duke can handle him one-on-one in the low post. However, Allen is suspended, and Tech's other options inside (Lewis Witcher and Cheick Diakite) are not offensive threats. The Blue Devils will be free to extend their defense even more with no Allen on the inside.

As mentioned earlier, look for guys like Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell to get more time. Hudson has the offensive ability to make Duke pay when they extend their defense, and Bell is a guy the Hokies can use at the 4 spot this game to guard a perimeter player. Bell's specialty at this point in his career is defense, and that will be needed on Thursday night.

The Blue Devils have a big statistical advantage in this game.

VT vs. Duke

Category
VT Duke
Advantage
Stat ACC Rank Stat ACC Rank
FG% 43.70% 11 48.70% 1 Duke
FG% Defense 39.20% 3 40.90% 5 VT
3-Pt. % 34% 9 38.70% 4 Duke
3-Pt. % Defense 33.70% 8 30.20% 1 Duke
FT % 68.80% 10 69.80% 7 Duke
Rebounding Margin +4.8 5 +2.5 8 VT
Turnover Margin +0.17 8 +4.94 2 Duke
Assist/TO Ratio 0.88 9 1.12 2 Duke
Scoring Offense 67.6 11 85 2 Duke
Scoring Defense 60.7 1 64.1 3 VT
Average --

7.5 --

3.5 Duke


Virginia Tech only has a couple of advantages over Duke: defense and rebounding. However, you can throw that rebounding mark out the window, as Jeff Allen isn't playing.

Allen is 19th in the ACC in scoring, fourth in rebounding and third in steals (pretty good for a guy that big). His loss has a tremendous impact on this game. The Hokies had a chance with Allen, albeit not a great one. Without Allen, a good game would be a moral victory. An actual victory will be very tough to achieve.