Virginia Tech was a really valuable game for Duke.
First, the Hokies pushed the Blue Devils into unfamiliar territory with a small team that passed beautifully.
And they forced Duke’s three tallest players - Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and Javin DeLaurier - out of most of the game. The three combined for just 43 of 200 possible minutes, taking away a significant Duke advantage.
But Duke adapted and went small too. At times Jack White and Joey Baker were the tallest Blue Devils on the floor.
The Hokies moved the ball beautifully and rather than killing Duke on three point shots - they hit just 5-20 - kept getting inside for easy baskets.
Duke put a stop to it in the second half and intense defense ground the Hokies down.
In more good news, Cassius Stanley returned for Duke after missing just two games with what seemed like a much worse injury when it occurred.
He played just seven minutes, but he’ll be fine.
Duke relied heavily on Wendell Moore and Jordan Goldwire, who came off the bench to bolster the defense. Both defended well and Goldwire hit 10 points on 4-8 shooting including 2-5 from deep. Tre Jones deserves praise for his offensive improvement but so does Goldwire. And Moore, who has at times made foolish mistakes, had no turnovers against the Hokies.
Joey Baker got 20 minutes and despite missing all of his shots contributed greatly.
These are all great developments for the Blue Devils.
Less noted for Duke is the really solid play of Jack White. Last season he really struggled with his shot and confidence. So far this season, the guy has been an absolute rock who has done whatever is needed. He’s not an NBA level player but if he chooses to play back home as a pro, he’ll clean up. We might see him in the Olympics down the road.
The biggest takeaway from this game though is that Duke had significant adversity and completely flipped the script. Defense continues to be the focus but offense is coming on too. Consider this: even though Baker whiffed, five different guys hit from three pointers. That’s going to make Duke really difficult to guard - and work to Vernon Carey’s advantage too.
Finally a word about Virginia Tech.
We thought they’d take a major step back after Buzz Williams left and several players departed.
Mike Young is a tremendous coach and communicator who has taught a lot in a hurry. With more talent, Virginia Tech is going to be a real handful. If we were fans, we’d go ahead and get our tickets now. They won't be easy to get later.