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Next Up - Virginia

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Next up for Duke is Virginia, and in case you haven't been paying attention, Virginia has become one of the ACC's more intriguing programs.

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When Tony Bennett showed up, there were some skeptics who worried that his style would be slow and out-of-step with the ACC. Having inherited the basic framework from his dad, Tony, the worries seemed to make sense: Bennett Sr. wasn't scared to play a game in the 30s.

The younger Bennett said that he wasn't opposed to running, that he had played in the NBA after all (is the the only ACC coach to do so? We're pretty sure he is) and understood running as well.

Still, his Virginia teams have been pretty methodical and grind-it-out.

Earlier in the season, with the exception of a few third-rate programs, Virginia was typically scoring in the 50s and 60s.

For instance, the first game with UNC was won, 61-52, and they lost to Clemson 59-44. They beat BC 65-51.

Injuries forced the Cavs to make some serious adjustments though, and recently they've been starting Akil Mitchell, Justin Anderson, Jontel Evans, Joe Harris and Paul Jesperson.

And it's worked beautifully. It's a creative solution to their injury woes and their lack of size. Their team is quicker, runs well and scores quickly.

Akil Mitchell has matured into a solid replacement for Mike Scott. Jontel Evans has been a pit bull point guard since he showed up as a nice freshman surprise. Joe Harris could easily be first-team All-ACC (remember he was a bit of a mystery? No more). Justin Anderson is a tremendous run-jump athlete who can play bigger or smaller than he actually is.

What we don't completely understand, not having seen Virginia a whole lot this season, is Jesperson's role. We're guessing he's a smart defender and what is frequently called a glue guy.

You may remember that Jesperson was supposed to redshirt as a freshman but was forced into action when Virginia had another wave of crippling injuries. He was overwhelmed at that point. Bennett, though, has a real knack for spotting his kind of players.

You may also recall that Duke has had some issues with Virginia ever since Bennett arrived. They've won, to be sure, though some have been tight: Duke won by just three last season.

Actually, Virginia hasn't beaten Duke since Sean Singletary's remarkable game in 2007.

Looking back though, the scores are deceiving, because there were a few games where we were uncomfortable until Duke broke it open late.

And even with their new lineup, they still defend well. In military terms, some teams run a sort of blitzkrieg offense (think UNC last year). Duke's offense can be explosive at times, although in a different way than UNC's.

No matter. Teams tend to run into that defense and it's like hitting mud on the Russian plains. You just bog down. It's designed to take away high percentage shots and to slow the game down (unless Virginia chooses to run).

Among other things, UVa will try very hard to frustrate Mason Plumlee around the basket. They will also make penetration much harder for Quinn Cook, who has a real knack for doing damage in the lane.

This would be a great game for Seth Curry to go off. Maybe some of his family animus towards Virginia has rubbed off.

Certainly this isn't going to be an easy game. It's not only huge for Virginia - it'll go a long ways towards erasing some of their bad non-conference losses - but they're seriously primed for this game.

Start with A.D. Craig Littlepage, who commandeered the P.A. after the Georgia Tech win and said "We need each and every one of you Thursday night at 9 o’clock. Bring your roommates, neighbors, business partners. Bring the person that pumps gas for you. . . . Bring whoever you can. We need it loud. We’re gonna rock them on Thursday night."

It's easier said than done, but make no mistake: Virginia will be ready.