Virginia comes into Cameron at 7-9 and 1-4 in the ACC, and with a young team that hasn't mastered defense.Â Duke is coming off of a frustrating loss in Winston-Salem and likely spoiling for a fight after hearing about it in practice for the last several days.Â We like to look for the bright side for every team, but Virginia could have a long afternoon.
If they do keep up with Duke, several things will have to happen.Â They'll have to play better on defense, they'll have to be strong in the paint, and they'll have to get solid guard play and hang on to the ball.Â In addition, they probably would need a solid game from the most likely depressed Mamadi Diane, who has had an absolutely dreadful senior year.
Diane, who spoke before the season of the lasting impact he'd like to leave on Virginia's program, has instead just played poorly and seems to have lost confidence.Â Losing his starting spot probably hasn't helped either.Â Against Florida State, he only took two shots, less even than point guard Sammy Zeglinski, who took five.Â It's one of the worst fades of all time in the ACC. You have to feel awful for the guy.
At this point, the guy who has become their focus is Sylven Landesberg, a freshman out of New York who has unusually mature work habits he attributes to his hard driving father.Â It's paid off.Â Landesberg is averaging 17.1 ppg and could be the ACC Rookie of the Year.Â He's really good.
It's not as if Virginia has absolutely no talent.Â They have some talent.Â The problem, aside from being mostly young talent, is that no one, including coach Dave Leitao, has any idea who is going to have a good night (Landesberg excepted).Â Some nights it's Calvin Baker.Â Some nights it's Mike Scott. Mustapha Farrakhan and Jeff Jones have had big games.Â Jamil Tucker can go off.Â But there is no pattern.
This is frustrating for a head coach, but really a pain for opposing defenses, because it's just not at all clear how to prepare for a team when no one is consistent.
Virginia tends to start Zeglinski and Baker in the backcourt, and that poses an opportunity, because they've had 84 turnovers between them.Â Toss in another 41 by Landesberg and you can see their perimeter is vulnerable.Â Duke has a size advantage too, and that can't hurt.
Mike Scott, who did a respectable job last year as an undersized center, has moved to forward and Assane Sene is holding down the paint for the Cavs.Â Sene is promising, but his offense is very raw at this point, and he fouls about every five minutes. He has a lot of potential, particularly as a shotblocker, but there's a long way to go.
It'll be interesting to see how he matches up with Brian Zoubek, who is not nearly as talented, but who is a much more polished big man.
Virginia will have a tough time matching up with Gerald Henderson.Â They're asking Landesberg to carry their offense, and he's a rookie, so asking him to do it all is a bit much.
Arguably, Virginia is at a disadvantage at nearly every position, so, particularly in light of Duke's offensive woes against Wake, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them play heavy zone.
For Duke, after Wake Forest, there is only one way: l'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!
Duke basketball is defined by audacity and by attacking.Â These qualities tend to show up even more strongly after a defeat. Our guess is that Duke is going to come out in high gear and take it to Virginia.Â How they respond, with four freshmen, four sophomores, and six upperclassmen including a transfer walk-on and four who have not lived up to expectations, will determine the path of the game.