Next up for Duke is a quick rematch with Virginia Tech except this time up there. A lot has changed since the first game.
Duke played the Hokies in Durham without Marvin Bagley and before the Devils had improved their zone defense to where it is now.
Duke’s also seen considerable improvement from Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, both of whom missed time earlier due to injuries. Both seem 100% now and Bolden in particular has shown considerable improvement.
But in Duke’s zone, DeLaurier has been a starter while Bagley was out and has become a major factor. Neither guy is scoring tons but they are helping immensely on defense and with rebounding.
Although Grayson Allen didn’t have a big offensive night against Syracuse - no one did really - he has picked up his game a great deal as well.
As for the Hokies, things have been a little less straightforward. They pulled off a massive upset at Virginia before losing at Duke 12 days ago, then winning easily over Georgia Tech and nipping a Clemson minus it’s most important player in Donte Grantham and also point guard Shelton Mitchell.
Losing to Louisville was a hit. The Cardinals have owned Virginia Tech for a while now but even so, the game was at home and would have been a useful win.
So there’s a lot riding on a win over Duke. The Hokies are currently in a three-way tie for sixth in the ACC and in eighth place with tiebreakers. A win over a top five team would be a big boost.
Virginia Tech couldn’t match Duke’s size inside in Durham and it’ll be even more difficult now with Bagley back.
To beat Duke they’ll probably have to run a lot and shoot fast, preferably with a high concentration of threes.
With just one player over 6-6 (6-10 Kerry Blackshear) who plays regularly, guarding Bagley and Carter is going to be very tough - and Duke’s Coach K is talking about going even bigger at times.
All that is great but if you’ve paid attention this season you’ve seen that at times Virginia Tech can be phenomenally good. Buzz Williams is a good man and an outstanding coach who has gotten his guys to play well as a unit.
Virginia Tech is most dangerous when two things are going well, and they tend to feed into each other: aggressive defense and three point shooting.
If they get both of those going and the Cassell crowd, which at its best is as good as any in the ACC is fired up, Duke will have to work hard to come out with a win.