#5 R.P.I. Duke @ #63 R.P.I. Virginia Tech:
TV coverage: Saturday ESPN 9pm (gameday in town at 8:30AM!)
Vegas Line: Duke-4.5, O/U=142
Good enough win that chopped Wake Forest down to size on national TV on Tuesday night down in Winston Salem. I’ll take it, click my heels and move immediately on to the game of the freakin’ year!
We got the bounce-back “dub-ah-u” out on the A.C.C. road and we got home safely and with no major injuries.
Now VT gets the #1 ranked basketball team in all the land, at home, inside the Cassell and blanket eMails or letter’s to the editor of the Collegiate Times need not apply. This one is a hot ticket folks! No, make that a hawt tix; the first truly sizzling hawt tix since we hosted #2 U.N.C. way back in 2009. To borrow on Huggy-Bear in the Starsky and Hutch 2004 remake; that’s a little over 700 days if you are keeping score at home since you have to “know somebody who knows somebody who robbed somebody” just to get in.
This one is big.
This one is bigger.
This one is the biggest VT home hoops game in quite some time.
And oh by the way, this one not only happens to be vs. #1, this one just so happens to be the 2009-2010 defending NC2A men’s basketball National Champion.
There is that.
Duke at a glance:
- 1st best in scoring margin (+18)
- 7th in scoring offense (83.0)
- 17th most 3-points made per game; 19th best in 3-point% (8.5, and 38.9%)
- 23rd in FG% overall (47.5%)
- 35th in FT% (74.1%)
- 37th in steals (8.1)
- 38th in defensive FG% allowed (40.1)
- 52nd in blocks (4.6)
Let’s see … a team that shoots lights out from the moment it enters the gym, from anywhere in the gym mind you — and plays lock down defense? Hmmmmm? Yah, that sure reads like a #1 basketball team in all the land to me. Duke’s lowest national ranking on all 20 D-1 metrics that I track is still a better than average 75th best in fewest personal fouls (17.8) whistled against. This is a damn good hoops team folks; some of my sources are saying that this 2010-2011 Duke basketball squad is actually superior to the team that went 35-5 along the way to another National Title last season. Check it out…
Is he first in the A.C.C. in points (21.7)? Check. Is he first in the A.C.C. in assists (5.3)? Check. Is he seventh in the A.C.C. in FT% (82.7%)? Check. Is he first in most FTA’s in the A.C.C. (170)? Check. Is he eighth in the A.C.C. in steals (38)? Check. And is he fifteenth in the A.C.C. in 3-point% (37.7%)? Check. Move over Malcolm Delaney we (likely) have a new A.C.C. Player of the Year? Sadly, check. I’d say that that’s a pretty fair to middling senior season campaign for Mr. Everything, one #2, 6`2“ 185 lb. Nolan Smith (below right). Mr. Smith may or may not be a great N.B.A. level baller; though he does bring extreme post-season experience and big-time all-round game to any A.C.C. basketball court on which he plays. To put it another way, Mr. Smith starts for all 11 other A.C.C. teams and there are only a couple of other Atlantic Coast ballers who can rightfully make that claim in pure competitive personnel terms. The only knock I could find is that Nolan has the second most turnovers in the A.C.C. All things considered, when you see everything else that Mr. Smith brings to the Atlantic Coast table – who cares?
Second in scoring is, well, was, #1, 6`2“ 180 lb. rookie (t-freshman) Kyrie Irving; such would be the best pure Point-Guard in his recruiting class, with a mega brio personality that gravitates leadership and attracts teammates despite his rookie in terms of raw age. Yup. Well, other than the small fact that he is sidelined indefinitely with a severely sprained giant-toe; and could possibly miss the rest of the season. Mr. Irving could also possibly be the brightest star in terms of raw talent on Coach K’s (Mike Krzyewski) 2010-2011 Roster. When you look at the pedigree and accomplishments’ of this years basketball squad that is indeed saying something; and that is indeed saying a whole helluva a lot. If this kid is this good right away; where is he by the time March of 2014 rolls around – presuming he does not turn Pro early? Kyrie is also second in assists (5.1), hits 53% from the floor, 45% from downtown and a whopping 90% on his FTA’s! Make no mistake about it; this kid could be Association ready right now and Kyrie is a major subtraction in backcourt terms for the Duke.
Second in rebounding (6.3), third in scoring (16.8) and per se only forth in 3-point% (35.7%) would be 6`8“ 230 lb. senior Forward, #12, Kyle Singler (left above). Kyle also makes his living at the FT stripe with 101 FTA’s already this season; and he is a fine offensive-rebounder with a nose for the ball with 65 offensive-boards already this season. All Kyle has done this season is maintaining his pace to finish his Duke career as only the forth baller in the entire history of the A.C.C. to go for over 2,400 career points and more than 1,000 career rebounds! Dang; think about all of the all-time A.C.C. big-names and then think about that.
First on the glass and the only real post-threat on the Duke roster in my book is one #5, sophomore 6`10“ 230 lb. PF Mason Plumlee. Mason has really come on this season and is starting to fulfill his stamp as the potential star of the Raleigh-Durham based Plumlee clan. Mason is posting a team-leading 8.7 boards and likewise team-leading 1.6 blocks to go along with 7.3 points down in the paint. Older brother (by one year) #21, junior season, Miles Plumlee is a 6`10“ and slightly bulkier (240 lb.) role-player off of Coach K’s bench. Miles is a solid baller who gives you 5 points and 5 boards in frontcourt relief; despite receiving what can only be considered to be uneven playing-time this season. Also contributing down-low for the Dukie’s is #34 Ryan Kelly. Ryan is a 6`10“ 220 lb. sophomore who stayed home to ball at Duke. Ryan has added 15 lbs. of muscle to go along with his 6 points, 4 rebounds and 39% stroke from downtown. Not bad as a skillful modern era big-man goes; for the guy who won the McDonald’s All-American game 3-point shootout contest two years ago. Chipping in off the Duke frontcourt pine would be Commonwealth escapee, one #15, 6`6“ 210 lb. freshman year Swing, Josh Harrison of Fredricksburg, VA fame. Josh is still developing and his shot needs some D-1 work, though he prolly starts for Virginia Tech right now.
Helping out in the Duke backcourt would be the other legacy-Curry who got away. #30, 6`2“ 175 lb. sophomore and Liberty transfer Seth Curry is netting 9 points per game on a nifty and nepotistic 41% shooting from beyond the arc. Seth is another Dukie who although he is not the star for Coach K, likely starts for Coach Seth Greenberg. How good is Seth Curry you ask? Lindy’s magazine tabbed him as their A.C.C. Player of the Year sleeper pick pre-season! Seth has not quite lived up to all of that Human Genome Project hype at Duke after averaging a freshman best 20.2 points per game in 2009; though he has been starting since mid-January and he has accordingly upped his game since he starting starting for the injured Mr. Irving with two 20 point games in the last three weeks.
Also pitching in would be #20, 6`4“ 190 lb. sophomore back-up Pt.Guard Mr. Andre Dawkins. ‘dre has a rep as being a fine 3-point marksman and as being pretty heady seeing how he graduated High School a year early. Mr. Dawkins is also a Commonwealth refugee as he hails from Chesapeake Virginia. ‘dre gets you 9 points per game off the Duke bench on 44% shooting from 3-point land. Yet again; this is another kid who although a substitute at Duke likely starts at Tech. #3 Tyler Thornton is a 6` 185 lb. Washington D.C. native who logs reserve minutes for Coach K. Tyler is know to be a pass-first ball handling wiz’ who needs a little work on his shot; although he is a very useful and well regarded throwback version of a true-blue distribution oriented Point Guard.
As you can see, Duke has by my count at least three guys ridding their pine would could quite possibly start right now at Virginia Tech. U.N.C. may have more frontcourt star power; though you can make quite the cogent case that this 2010-2011 Duke basketball squad is the most talented team top to bottom in the entire A.C.C. right about now. Even the Duke scrubs –including former student-manager and gym-rat walk-on Rudy remix tape- Casey Peters; and the bulky back-up PF otherwise known as Todd Zafirovski … could play for someone else in the A.C.C. if they were only on a basketball team not named Duke.
Conclusion(s), Fourm-Guide, prediction:
Duke can be beaten, it has happened twice already, both times out on the road in fact.
- 61-66 L @ F.S.U., on 31% Duke shooting from the floor
- 93-78 L @ St.John’s, when the Red Storm shot 58% from the floor and 60% from range
So there you have it; Duke almost certainly must have an off-shooting night or Virginia Tech must be en fuego (on fire) from all over. To be direct; the odds simply do not favor the upset Hokie win in this one.
“If you play the odds.”
-James Bond, For Your Eyes Only-
(More coming on Friday after I scout Temple @ Duke on Wednesday night)
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Duke is only 77.7% out on the road this year … so “yes Virginia” there is a chance.
It’s just not a good chance.
However, let us dig a little deeper and see what we can find…
“Anything you can do I can do better…”
-Ethel Merman, in Annie Get Your Gun-
Yah; that’s pretty much it, the Fourm-Guide predicted a 44 point Duke blow-out win after only studying 5-games! With the emphasis on the world only – meaning I did not even bother to crutch all of the games this time. The Fourm-Guide sure makes this one look like fait accompli. Nonetheless, peculiarly enough, VT was every bit as good as Duke was on offense vs. common opponents; maybe even just a tad better. Wild huh — raise your hand if you predicted that one? Me neither. Rebounding was next of kin to even; with Duke holing only the slightest of edges. Defense however was another matter altogether. I am rounding off just a smidge; and yet Duke was approximately 33% more efficient on defense vs. recent common opponents head-to-head than VT was. Think about what I’m saying in pragmatic FG% terms for a moment. IF VT had a pretty decent night defensively and say only allowed 40% of opponent’s shots to fall, Duke flat-out plum got after the same opponent and only allowed 26% of common opposing shots to find the net! Or in other words, Duke appears to be the vastly superior defensive team in pure Atlantic Coast terms.
Home/Away splits; and most recent 5-game trends:
Duke’s offense dropped off not at all out on the road. That is a surefire sign of an extremely efficaciously coached basketball team folks. To borrow a line the Duke offense is a machine. The Home/Away defensive splits were pretty much the same as Duke only softens up by a meager 0.2% FG% allowed out on the road. VT on the other hand as not caught the typical Cassell homecourt bump down in the New River Valley this season compared to years past; as the Hokie hosting metrics are literally only a couple of percentage points removed from being flat, cumulatively speaking. Ergo, any real or perceived homecourt advantage in this one may actually be something of a fugazi.
Recent fourm or recent play only served as further conformation of the above … in that offense was borderline precisely even with both teams fielding B+ quality offenses out on the court of late. Defense painted a different picture entirely and it painted blue-deviling picture at that. Duke is 6.5% better in terms of FG% allowed and 6.1% better in terms of closing out on opposing 3-point shoots. Curiously enough (Jeff Allen plug insert here); VT was +5 ahead of Duke in rebounding margin over the course of the prior two and a half weeks of scrimmaging.
That said, VT does have a shot in this one; I personally rate that as being code for something in the O&M neighborhood of a ~25% shot at pulling the mega number one ranked upset in this one. It is my longstanding experience that there is one thing that can not go cold in sports – effort. It is my on-court experience that that means there are two things that can not go cold in basketball – defense and rebounding. Rebounding is close enough; although defense regrettably is not. VT really needs Duke to de facto defend itself via a bedeviling shooting night from the floor and from beyond the arc where Coach K’s boys can suddenly open a close game up in a matter of minutes — just ask Temple the other night.
In order to pull this upset; VT must maintain contact, keep Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney out on the court for nearly 80 full minutes combined and hope that Duke just so happens to have one final off night this season. Although technically not umpossible the odds simply do not favor that; not even at home. And yet there is hope … as Coach K has shortened his rotation and played his top-4 ballers for 34, 35, 37, and 39 minutes vs. Temple at home on Wednesday night. Does that remind you of anybody? It should, as Seth just played his top-4 guys 36, 39, 40 and 40 up at uva.
There is no way in the world that I would shorten my McDonald’s all-American riddled bench –even out on the A.C.C. road- if I were Coach K vs. such a insalubrious VT hoops squad. However, if Coach K does cut his rotation down to size and thereby created a game of 7 on 7, VT’s odds on winning receive a major boost as that is precisely when homecourt advantage can make a significant difference in a contest of attrition or fatigue. VT is +1 on rest and Duke could possibly be looking ahead to a visit to U.N.C. with the #1 A.C.C. tournament seeding on the line in a few more days.
It has been a long time since something really good happened to the Virginia Tech men’s hoops program. Go ahead and name the last time — I dare you? Tough one ain’t it, I don’t know about you; though I’ll go ahead and say that Virginia Tech is well beyond due.
Virginia Tech=75, Duke=74