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Next Up - Virginia Tech

Time: 12:00 || Venue: Cassell Coliseum || Video: ESPN2

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NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Michigan
Nov 30, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies head coach Buzz Williams talks to Virginia Tech Hokies guard Seth Allen (4) in the first half aww at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Duke opens ACC play at Virginia Tech. Most years that wouldn't be a big problem but this year?

It’s potentially a big problem.

Curly Howard Buzz Williams has his team playing extraordinarily well. Keep in mind that big man Kerry Blackshear is out with a stress fracture which greatly limits what the Hokies can do in the paint.

Hasn’t much mattered. Other than a three point loss to Texas A&M, Virginia Tech - they get touchy If you call them Va. Tech - is undefeated.

It’s not a monstrous schedule but it’s not bad - the Hokies had a four-game stretch against New Mexico, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Michigan and beat them all except for A&M.

More importantly, the Hokies are enjoying playing together. Last year’s star, Zach LeDay, is coming off the bench and is fine with it. Senior transfer Seth Allen is too. He's fine with it

It’s become a sharing is caring culture.

This is somewhat opposite the concern that Luke Kennard expressed the other day when he expressed concern that his teammates were all trying to carry the day.

It’s not a terrible problem in one sense - lots of gifted guys are trying to take over - but it’s also not playing together in the way Kennard, and presumably Coach K, would prefer.

Despite coming off the bench, LeDay is still Tech’s leading scorer (16.5 ppg) and his stats are almost identical to last year’s.

Guard Ahmed Hill (6-5 junior) missed last season; he’s back with a vengeance, averaging 14.9 ppg and shooting nearly 45% from three point range.

Justin Robinson (6-1 sophomore) is averaging 11.3 ppg and 4.4 apg.

Allen is averaging 10.9 ppg and 3.5 apg. He shoots well unless he's at the line, where Allen is hitting just 54.2%.

Chris Clarke (6-6 sophomore) is averaging 10.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 3.8 apg.

Justin Bibbs gets 27.3 mpg and averages 7.8 ppg.

Khadim Sy and Ty Outlaw (Sy n Ty?) are in the rotation, pulling 13.4 and 11.3 mpg respectively.

This is a good team and one capable of surpassing its limitations.

For Duke, there is an X factor of course: the absence of Grayson Allen.

Suspended indefinitely after his third tripping incident, Allen is in timeout for a while.

In a funny way, that may be exactly what Duke needs: Allen’s absence does two things: it gives other guys a chance to step up (obviously Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum, but Harry Giles and Marques Bolden as well) and, in a sense, it will force a togetherness on Duke.

We expect the staff will underscore this. People have excoriated Allen since the Elon game and while that’s not surprising, it does tend to force an us-vs-them mentality, which may help Duke.

Certainly it can’t hurt. Duke faces a very united team in a gym with a tremendous homeport advantage, at least for big games.

Duke will be favored, but only a fool would expect an easy game.

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