Next up for Duke is Virginia Tech in what is likely to be a very tough game.
Aside from ESPN's Game Day treatment, aside from the normal ACC implications, this game is Virginia Tech's chance, perhaps their last chance, to lock down a certain NCAA bid.
And the Hokies have success against top-rated teams to fall back on. They've played the number one team in the country five times under Seth Greenberg and have won two of them: Wake Forest in 2004 at Wake Forest, and UNC in Blacksburg in 2007. And keep in mind that it would have been three if Sean Dockery hadn't hit a 40 foot jumper in Cameron in 2005 (you may remember Coleman Collins taunting Duke just before the play and then trying to get the referees to wave it off).
As we've said before, Virginia Tech's struggles are with the mundane, not with the exceptional. They might not get up for Georgia Tech or Boston College, but they never have problems getting fired up for Duke or Carolina, and odds are they won't this time either. And while injuries have decimated their depth, they've long since learned to play with a short bench and the players they have remaining are pretty god.
Virginia Tech starts with guard Malcolm Delaney, who's had a wonderful career. He's averaging 19.1 points per game, 4.2 assists, 3.3 rebounds and nearly two steals. After poor shooting his last two seasons, he's improved to 42.9%.
But it's hard to define a player like Delaney. Part of what makes him extraordinary is his competitive nature and the fact that he finds different ways to solve problems. One of the ways Delaney finds solutions is to get to the foul line a lot: he's been there 801 times during his career. Like Jim Spanarkel back in the day, he just has a knack for it. He also has a knack for clutch play, and will have the ball in his hands at the end of any close game.
Tech has also benefited from the maturation of Jeff Allen. Through his career, Allen has struggled to control his emotions on the court. To a lesser extent, he has struggled to define his body. As a freshman, Seth Greenberg thought Allen was too heavy. As a sophomore, he came in too light and wasn't able to be as physical in the post as he had been.
This year, when he is most needed, Allen has played his best basketball. Like everyone, he's had to pull heavy minutes. And while earlier in his career he was foul prone, this season he's averaging 38.2 minutes per game which suggests he's learned how to manage that.
But while Delaney and Allen are their main assets offensively, they have overcome a ridiculous number of injuries and developed a seven man rotation that while limited, is unquestionably effective. Erick Green, Victor Davila and Terrell Bell are all averaging at least 28.9 minutes a game, while Manny Atkins and Jarell Eddie provide athleticism off the bench and about 22 minutes a game.
Obviously, one way to attack the Hokies is to try to tire them out. We haven't watched them often this season, but consider some of the teams they have lost to: Kansas State, Purdue, Virginia, UNC, Georgia Tech, and Boston College.
Either offensively or defensively, all of these teams put a lot of pressure on opponents, and a team with no bench can be worn down. Virginia Tech is experienced and tough, and they've been through a lot. Breaking them won't be easy least of all at home, and as we have said, Greenberg has a real knack for firing his teams up for big games.
There's another angle to this game though that can't be completely understood until it's played, and that's how Seth Curry reacts.
Curry of course comes from a Virginia Tech family -- both his father and mother were athletes at VT -- and he wanted to play there as well. Unfortunately, Greenberg only offered him the chance to walk on out of high school and didn't take him seriously as a potential player. This was his second mistake with the Currys as he could have also probably had Stephen, which would've changed his career dramatically.
When Seth decided to leave Liberty, Virginia Tech was again an option, but he felt strongly about Duke.Â To date, as far as we know, Greenberg has not said much if anything about Curry's decisions.
Like the rest of his family, Seth has strong feelings about the school, but perhaps his are more complex. Will he have something special for them? We'll know soon enough.