The last time Duke and Virginia met was in the ACC Tournament last season, and while Virginia gave Duke a tremendous game, a lot has changed since then for both teams. BothÂ started the season with a lot of confidence; both teams also have suffered key injuries.
In Duke's case of course, the loss of Kyrie Irving to date has caused Duke to change their entire approach. And for Virginia, big men Mike Scott is out for the year with an ankle injury. Virginia, a critically young and small team with Scott is even more so without him.
They do return 7-0 junior Assane Sene and 6-9 senior Will Sherrill, but behind them they have only 6-8 freshmen Will Regan and Akil Mitchell. We're not putting any of them down, but it is asking a lot.
Virginia's in much better shape at guard.
Jontel Evans, Sammy Zeglinski, Billy Barron, Mustapha Farrakhan, KT Harrell and Joe Harris each have the capacity to make a significant impact. However, only Farrakhan and Zeglinski have meaningful experience.
Well actually that's not entirely true as Evans is a sophomore and played a lot last season due to his defense.
Still, it's a young rotation.
Perhaps in keeping with his father Dick's tradition, Bennett's team has struggled offensively at times this season.
However, he's already made his reputation as a defensive coach. Bennett runs his father's pack line defense, which is designed to help neutralize more talented teams. The Cavaliers are 10-6, but with the exception of Seattle, their losses are all to very credible teams: Stanford, Washington, Wichita State, Iowa State and UNC.
They've also had impressive wins, including Oklahoma, Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Oregon and LSU.
For a young team, not to mention one with a critical injury or two (Sherrill was also hurt earlier), that's pretty impressive. This is by the way the first time that Bennett or any of his younger players will have set foot in Cameron, so it's sort of a baptism by fire.
As for Duke, while we are not privy to a lot of inside information, history tells us that Duke usually applies lessons learned in a loss very well.
So while we don't know exactly what they're doing in practice this week, we do know that they've isolated things from the Florida State game and are trying to figure out how to apply them. It wouldn't surprise us all to see a different starting lineup, and we would expect that both Plumlees have had their manhood significantly challenged this week.
As we said before, you can sometimes watch the first few minutes of a game and understand quickly what the points of emphasis are. If Duke spends the first five plays passing the ball inside, then it's pretty clear that the inside game is the focus.Â But whatever they do repetitively at the beginning is the lesson being learned.
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