Next up for Duke is Virginia, which has had a very interesting season under new coach Tony Bennett, who replaced the difficult and high strung Dave Leitao after his disastrous four-year run at Virginia.
Although Virginia has struggled in February, Bennett has substantially changed the program. he has a very limited roster, but at its best, the team is defended well and been resourceful offensively. At times, they've been really good. Almost shockingly good.
Remember they beat Georgia Tech early and beat Carolina by 15 in Chapel Hill.
When things work for them it's a combination of Bennett's version of his father Dick's pack line defense and a patient offense. Unlike his dad though, young Tony has no problem with being offensively aggressive (you may recall that at one point people were very frustrated with Wisconsin because the scores were in the 40s)
Obviously their greatest offensive talent is Sylven Landesberg, last year's ACC Rookie Of The Year. He's a slasher and a very reliable scorer. After him, though, things fall off offensively. Mike Scott has definitely had his moments. So has Sammy Zeglinski. Jeff Jones and Mustapha Farrakhan have had some great games too.
Yet their offense is pretty sharply limited, and their best performances have been dictated by defense. And on defense, they've gotten some wonderful performances out of Jerome Meyinsse and rookie Jontel Evans.
Making things a little tougher for Virginia is the fact that Landesberg suffered a thigh bruise in the Miami game Tuesday. He's still
Still, it would be a mistake to write Virginia off this early. Just as a what-if, what if Virginia plays lights-out defense and Duke's shooting woes resurface? That becomes a different game, and when the likely comes down to defense on both ends and rebounds. Duke would probably be okay with that since that's the Blue Devil's identity this year, but getting into an ugly game with Virginia is risky business.
We know they've been struggling. We have developed a lot of respect for Bennett this year and think he'll quickly become one of the better coaches in the ACC. All coaches, to a greater or lesser extent, are about hiding their team's deficiencies and emphasizing strengths. That's more true for Virginia than the rest. We're not knocking them; Bennett has more or less said the same thing. For them to pull this game off, though, is going to require a superb effort. Are they capable? Yes. Is it likely? Well, put it this way - you have to believe to achieve.
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